When it comes to homeschooling, one of the most essential pieces of the day involves the actual teaching and learning of your core subjects. Typically called “the three R’s,” these consist of reading, writing, and math – or, arithmetic if you’d like to see that third R. Your state may have requirements beyond this (and, in fact, probably does), but these are the basis for any program. What they look like in your home, again, will vary from homeschool to homeschool.
We homeschooling moms tend to obsess over curriculum, especially with the three R’s. We do all kinds of research about our children’s learning styles, our teaching styles, and read all the sites and books on the best curriculum recommendations. That’s all fine and dandy, and yes, some of it even works out to be worthwhile. Would we make it as homeschoolers and educators without all of that obsession? Most likely, yes. It’s fine, yall. Really. Try something, and if it doesn’t work, try something else – and I don’t necessarily mean go buy another book!
You see, no matter what your homeschooling style is, I’m really convinced that you don’t really need a book. First of all, there’s too much available on the internet. Secondly, if we are education minded and working towards a learning environment, then the things we do and the things we have our kids do will automatically bring up what the next area of focus can be – should be.
“Oh no! She’s one of those looney bin unschoolers!” Far from it, actually. (In fact, some of the looney bin unschoolers in my life will cackle at the very thought, I’m sure!) I’m just saying that we homeschooling moms tend to put school in a box; not the public institute model of a box, maybe, but a box nonetheless. I really do believe that we need an outline, a goal, something to help guide us moms in guiding our children. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be a book. We do have to work at school each day. I’ve seen with my own eyes and in my own kids, that you can’t just wait around for kids to decide to be interested in learning something. They do need guidance and direction. But, the day goes much easier if you steer them in that direction and then let them explore the path.
The Three R’s
So what do we do for the three R’s? Well, do what you must. I’ve listed here some great books, but also a few ideas for outside the books. I’ve learned this because we have such a limited budget, that just because the book we have isn’t working doesn’t mean I can go buy the next thing. Often, we have to make do with what we have and just kind of “play school” until I can do something different. I think we will move towards “playing school” on a more regular basis. We seem to get more done in those times.
The first of the three R’s is reading. I’ll touch on this more in a subsequent post, but – real books, people. Do we need to think about language components such as idioms, hyperboles, synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and the like? Sure. Do them with your writing, and occasionally challenge your kids to find one in the book(s) they are currently reading. But let them cultivate a love of reading, and they will be readers their whole lives. If they are readers, they have the mental capacity and habitual practice to be able to learn anything at any point in their lives. Reading is probably the most important thing you can teach.
It looks different for every age group. For toddlers, reading looks like you reading to them. For preschoolers, reading looks like you still reading to them but maybe they are more choosey about the books. It also looks like beginning to identify letters, and recognize that letters make up words. The next step is phonics readers, letting them practice running their sounds together into words. Don’t worry; they’ll get it eventually! After they can read a bit, it’s time to work on spelling. Spelling is a major component of reading, and then it translates into writing as well. (Just stating that gives me – myself – some insight as to how to address spelling in my own home. It’s been an issue for a while now. I’m happy to now take my own advice!)
Elementary school is about fostering a love of reading. For my kids, it was about watching a movie and then the revelation that said movie was actually a book first and the book is (always) much better. Work your way through the Newberry lists, and google for lists of books, and ask your librarian. Middle school brings more interests and an introduction to genres; time to start checking the lists of “classics” so that they get the education you missed. This is also the time frame when, if a love of reading has been cultivated, they will gobble books by the dozens. High school brings Shakespeare, well known authors, and discussions about authors and intents. Do a little discussion and some writing intensive studies, and let them roam free in the library.
Writing doesn’t start with an R, but it’s the second component of “the three R’s.” Go figure. While in the public school, your literary components are addressed in the course marked “reading,” really they are much easier to teach and incorporate in the realm of writing. Learn what they are, what they look like, and how to employ them, and they will be easy to spot in whatever literature you or your child happens to pick up. You’ll know they’re learning it when they run to you with a book and say, “Mom! Look! An idiom!”
To start with, writing looks like handwriting. Handwriting first looks like tracing, pencil position, straight lines, and circles in clockwise rotation. It looks like mazes and coloring sheets, dot to dot pages, and the drawing of shapes. You move to a basic readable font (totally up to you – some people argue against ball and stick, some against cursive, but no one really cares). Please teach your kids to type, and type well. Writing begins with a good basis in grammar. I don’t care what curriculum you use.
I’m of the school of thought that all of these things should be in place before addressing the concept of creative or instructive writing. If you aren’t, then fine. Do what you want to do; that’s the beauty of homeschooling. My kids start writing instruction in middle school, and by the time they are high school aged they are done with everything in the writing arena (including spelling) except for actual writing. Writing is about communicating, and that’s a focus for my high school students.
Whoever decided to call it “the three R’s” must have had their pronunciation of this word confused. Just saying. In the beginning, just teach them to count. And then they can count even higher than that. Patterns, one to one correspondence, shapes, and more can be learned in the early years with calendar math. After that, any sequential program will suffice. (Here’s a free internet stuffs hint: look up the table of contents for your favorite curriculum, and then find free printables and games based on that concept.)
In high school, there are certain courses that your student will need to take in order to receive an accepted high school transcript if they are headed for college or trade school. (Or have them take the GED. It’s an option.) Usually these include two years of algebra and a geometry. Most people feel most comfortable using a book or a set curriculum. (For a cheap option, check out the “Key To” Series.) Whatever curriculum or method you choose, make sure you’re also teaching them math they will actually use. (Oh come on. Do you use algebra every day, or even often, or ever besides teaching it to your kids? Unless you’re an engineer or a few other specific careers, very few people need these courses!) Teach them consumer math, and interest and commissions rates, and balancing a checkbook, and how to buy a house. Teach them stewardship, and to tithe. You know, real world stuff!
Other Required Subjects
Most likely, your state homeschooling laws require you to teach other subjects besides the three R’s listed here. In Texas, we are only required to teach 5 subjects: math, reading, spelling, grammar, and good citizenship. (Well, whaddya know! I covered all of those but the last one above. 😉 ) Good citizenship is easy, as any character program will do. Are you studying Bible? Active at church? Involved in a character training group like scouts? You’re covered.
I realize that we have it easy in Texas, especially considering no one even checks on the above unless there is some sort of trouble. You might have more subjects to cover in your state, and you might even be limited as to what you can study when. It’s all good, sweetie. If you have these basic subjects down, everything else is gravy. Need to include science and history? Use those subjects in your required reading. Geography is super easy to bundle next to history. Health and physiology? Go outside, and read books. Art and music? Those are the fun things in life, y’all. Really. And read books!
Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Julie @ Nurturing Learning
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Nicole @ Journey to Excellence
Adriana @ Homeschool Ways
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Sarah @ Delivering Grace