The new school year is just around the corner. Sweet summer is coming to a close and all those little darlings are just begging to get at the books again. You have slaved over a hot stove, canning your winter supply of food, with your favorite curriculum catalog close by. You have attended conventions and been inspired to face the new year with hope that your family will prosper and attain knowledge and wisdom. You may have even converted some of your dearest friends to see the light that you possess. Just what does all this mean? If you are like me, school is coming just a little too quickly. You are way overworked, have a thousand things to do, and just put on a new job hat to wear for the coming year. Where does the time go?
In our home, we try to help life run more smoothly by limiting our outside commitments. This is a constant struggle, but it certainly helps keep sanity a top priority. There are things we know are "must do" obligations - family meal times are a must as well as participation in Awana club and church. My children sing at a local nursing home once a week. Serving the senior citizens at the nursing home is a must.
We also participate in 4-H activities and usually pick the projects that can also apply to an academic area. Last year I was a project leader for horticulture, ceramics, community service, foods and nutrition, lapidary and stamp collecting. The projects were set at various times throughout the year and meetings were held to fit my schedule. (For those considering 4-H involvement, I add a note of caution. As of this month, my local county 4-H program is trying to start an in-house fingerprinting program for volunteer leaders. This is authoritarian and completely unnecessary).
The Principle Approach is the educational philosophy which guides our family's home education. The phrase "Principle Approach" was first coined by Miss Rosalie Slater while studying the original documents compiled by Miss Verna Hall concerning the founding of America. The Principle Approach recognizes seven fundamental principles upon which America was founded and that should govern our lives today. These seven principles - all biblically based - are: Sovereignty, Covenant, Stewardship, Christian Individuality, Christian Self-Government, Christian Character, and Sowing & Reaping. These form the basis for a biblical worldview. Every academic discipline and anything we choose to do can be identified by one of these principles.
For the school year, I sit down with each child and draw up a "goal and method" overview. This can be somewhat flexible and may even change for one reason or another, but it is what we shoot for. My daughter is 13 this year and will be in the 8th grade. Our goal and method sheet will look something like the table on page 39.
Each child goes through a battery of self-administered tests at the beginning of the year. I keep these in a notebook and re-administer them throughout the year to check progress and identify areas that are weak. These tests serve to keep a check on me as well as them. At the beginning of the year all children review the "basics" of each discipline. We brush up on spelling and phonics rules, basics of grammar and math, and review of our Bible, history and anything else that we will need to make the year progress more smoothly.
A Proper Beginning
A standard for the Harris family is to start our day with the Word. We begin by quoting our family scriptures as we clean up after breakfast. While we fold and put away our laundry from the midnight wash, we continue working through our scripture verses. When all of this is done, we gather at our family altar. (No, it is not the television!) Our family altar is our couch, where we kneel as a family to start the day.
This habit has become so ingrained, we feel something is missing if we skip this precious time. We commit our day to the Lord and spend time teaching the children how to pray, how to thank God for his faithfulness and goodness to us, and how to intercede for the needs of others. We pray for one another and the progress of our day. We pray for one special person to come along that we will have the opportunity to witness to. If there is also something special going on, or of special concern to a member of the family, we take the time to deal with that.
We usually end our formal "class" time together around lunch. After lunch is when the children really must work on their own. I am available to check on progress and help where needed, but we don't function as a school group.
This down time has proved to be some of the most relaxing and calming through the years. It is when our home becomes a "learning tree." A tree must have deep and strong roots in order to produce shade and fruit. These roots have to be fertilized and watered with things that will foster growth. As they become rooted and grounded, they will produce those qualities of wisdom and knowledge that we desire.
Holding On to God's Principles
As home educators we must learn to put our worries and fears at the foot of the cross. We answer to God and not man. The fear of man and the condemnation received from family and friends is cause for many homeschoolers to give up before the task is done. We must be prepared to go the distance, no matter how far that distance is.
There will always be heartache and pain, unhappy children who will try their power over your authority, husbands who don't care one way or the other, and well-meaning loved ones whose expectation you will not meet. What will matter is that we took a stand for the life of our children. If our learning tree is rooted and grounded in the word of God and everything we try to accomplish is based on God's guidance, we will have no fear and the state of our homeschool life will speak for itself.
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