Saturday, 2 June 2012

Top Ten Home education, or homeschool essentials.

What items do you really need to successfully home educate? this may vary from one family to the next but here are the items we could not live without.

1. Books - not just text books, in fact we have very few text books, but books about anything and everything. I spend 1 - 2 hours per day reading to my children. At times I have read out loud until I've lost my voice. In addition to me reading to my sons, my seven year old reads quite a bit himself. But in order for a child to choose books over the vast myriad of entertainment choices they have today- we really need to maintain a good selection of books with topics that catch the boys' interest. One of my most important goals in deciding to home educate was to encourage my children to read for pleasure. I could sit and read with him for hours a day - ask to read out loud or on his own - but reading for pleasure can not be forced. I choose books for specific subjects, but my sons chooses  the books that are kept for pleasure reading. At the moment, this means comics books. Wait - you may be thinking - are comic books really educational? In my opinion they are. At least my son is reading, and enjoying it. when a child reads anything for the sheer pleasure of it, they are going to build their reading skills.

 But we do have a lot more than comic books. We have everything from simple board books to classics like Grimm's Fairy Tales, the bible, science and history books, young adult novels,  children's fiction and non fiction, as well as the odd book intended for adults. Books have been our biggest expense in home education - but they are also the most treasured. while some families get by on far less, especially if they have access to a good library ( which we don't), a reasonable amount of books is an absolute necessity to teach at home.

2. The Internet - I just don't know what we would do without the Internet. From the time my youngest was  under 2, he would say " why don't you google it" if I didn't know the answer to something. I can't believe how much comes up that I didn't know when reading various books with my son - whenever we get a question I don't know how to answer we have two solutions : and Google.

3. Hooked on Phonics - this may fall under books, but I can't imagine going teaching my son to read without a good phonics programme. We used several, and I am glad to have had all of them, but if I had to choose just one, this would be it.

4. Jumpstart and Mathblaster - As well as owning several pieces of software from this company, we bought a lifetime online membership to Jumpstart which includes Mathblaster as well. Both of my sons ( ages 3 and 7) use this site regularly, learning core subjects while they play.

5. Workbooks - I don't class these as books, books are much more fun. I don't ever want to go overboard on workbooks, but a few good workbooks are essential for Maths, and quite helpful for other subjects. We used Kumon, Maths Made Easy, Science Made Easy, Brain Quest and a few others.

6. Homemade books. Some of our most useful books are home made. An alphabet book with familiar pictures is an excellent way to teach letters and letter sounds. Another home made book taught simple words. Our very favourite own book is a story my son made up based on We're Going on a Bear Hunt,   . My son chose his own scary subject ( ghosts) and ended up with a wonderful story about a ghost hunt in Luigi's Mansion ( stolen directly from the Nintendo game). Another fun book is "It Wasn't me" about a dog who gets the blame for everything in the house - featuring our dog and family. We also have a book of dinosaurs, a book of space, and are currently working on my son's own history of the world. We just pick any event or invention and place it in the correct order. You can use a photo album, scrap book, or binders to build your own books. It's cheap, it's fun and includes so many areas of learning all in one go. Plus it leaves lovely keepsakes to remember.

7. Trips - you can learn so much from a day out. Of course places like museums and zoos are obvious, but there is quite a lot to discover in the local park as well. Even a shopping trip can be educational. Nothing teaches maths skills so fast as telling a child they can spend  x amount of money - they'll have their purchases tallied up in no time.

8. Science toys - we absolutely love our science toys. We have everything from a very high powered usb capable microscope , to chemistry sets, science kits, magnifying glasses, magnets and so much more. Hands on science teaches so much and it is fun at the same time.

9. Board games: This may not sound very educational, but I remember some years ago reading a study of three factors most likely to influence educational attainment outside of socioeconomic status. The three factors most likely to increase educational attainment were, in order:
  •    Reading  - this includes parents reading to children and setting an example by reading themselves, and access to a good selection of books. In fact another study very accurately predicted educational attainment just by counting the number of books in the house. the higher the number of books - the higher the child was apt to go in education - I always take comfort in this when spending too much on books ;)
  • Family Outings - the more often a family spends time together doing things like visiting museums, seasides, parks, or other attractions, the better a child did in school.
  •  And finally - board games. A family habit of playing board game son a regular basis was an excellent predictor of academic success. Of course other issues play a part. A family that spends a lot of time on board game is obviously spending time together . This isn't possible if both parents are away from home for most of the child's waking hours - or if neither parent likes to spend time with the child.
Board games are great way to spend time together, but there are many very educational games out there. For instance Magic Cauldron Game directly teaches maths, as does Sum Swamps. Silly sentences teaches reading and sentence structure. But other ordinary entertainment games have wonderful educational value. We love Hangman which is a wonderful way to have fun with spelling, as is Scrabble. Many games teaching adding and subtraction as you count out the money. Battleship has taught my son to use grids and Run for Your Life helped him learn fractions. Top Trumps teaches greater than and less than. Make it doubles Top Trumps, using two cards for each play and you have a great addition game. Bakugan was the best thing we ever found to teach maths though as you have to add and subtract points according to various ability cards to determine who wins each battle.  But you can make your own board games as well pasting pictures over an old board, making up game cards and rules to suit any subject.

10. Art supplies: I think this is basic requirement of having small children anyway, but a good stock of paper, crayons, paints, clays, and other are supplies are a  real necessity for home education.

For older children:
As they grow there is only so much we can teach them at home. I think volunteer work, or just learning a skill from a mentor are among the best resources we can have with older children. My sons are a bit young for this now, but my 7 year old does benefit greatly from being able to take a class outside of home (karate) as well as participate in the Boys Brigade.

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