If you say you’re homeschooling, but your family’s achievements are outside the realm of the 3R's, power-up the academics a notch or two--you won’t regret it!
Why hone in on the basics of education:
First of all, here are some thoughts about why you want to be committed to the academic endeavor in increased measure—even if your family is traveling a lot or your regular routine is disrupted frequently, for whatever reason.
Gaining a large general knowledge in all subjects is what I call growing a conceptual alphabet with which to understand life. This augments children's total view of life—gives them an intellectual confidence in navigating all social conversations and in hearing all world news—because they can pin new information into the context of something they already know.
Further, a large general education increases children’s worship of God incrementally as they grow in their awareness of the intricacy and complexity of what God hath actually wrought. It is the uneducated who think life is simple or that they totally understand it all. Gaining increased wholesome knowledge grows real humility: "The more I know, the more I realize that I don't know." Becoming aware of how God shows forth His complexities—not only with physical matter but with designing systems in which it all works together—creates further respect for God. And then, of course, being vaguely aware (as it happens to us) of how God makes and disciples the human being on top of all of that is mind-blowing.
All wholesome knowledge complements (as in: completes, rounds out, gives insight to) all other knowledge. There is no downside to having our children know too much of God's world in all of its glorious detail. Knowledge gives a person a leadership edge, a kind of natural authority; you can't lead other people if you know less than they do. We want our children to be the head, and not the tail, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:13, and achieving this requires building mental muscle.
Why we don’t get to the academics routinely:
When we examine why academic education doesn't happen, it is in invariably because the logistics, structures and routines of education aren't settled, and the type of education we have chosen is too mother-dependent; she just can't get to it all. No woman is super-woman 24/7/365.
But, happily, there is a way to make this happen easily and largely, without a heavy demand upon mama and papa, by using the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum. When your children read the English, Social Studies and Science A.C.E. paces they will begin to teach you (the parents) at dinner time every night! You'll be amazed at how much they learn and retain. They will grow to be happily conversant in all sorts of topics, wowing the socks off of you.
A second reason why homeschool academics falter is when our children have not developed a habit of studying. We want to give our children a lifetime habit of continued study—of continued curiosity and of continually being well read and articulate both in speech and writing. It has been said that “reading makes a large man, speaking a ready man, and writing an exact man.” There is no downside to that :) !!!
A third reason is that the years of childhood and child-rearing pass all too quickly. This is the season of life to do the lion's share of laying the academic background for all future mental superstructures one wants to build upon that. The remainder of life never again affords this opportunity to do it this fully. Therefore we want to make hay while we have this chapter opened up, via a childhood that was God-given for that purpose.
A common mindless assumption about basic learning:
Here’s a final point about why educate: it is so easy as a parent, myself included, to assume that our children know everything we know. But, sigh, they don’t; it has to be re-taught to every generation. Children are devoid of all sorts of knowledge that we take for granted.
Implications of focusing (or not) on conquering the 3Rs:
Soooo, what are the implications? Having this high vision of the benefits of a strong general education might reduce the temptation to have a capable young adult focus on work to the exclusion of his basic education. Even your most hardworking child would do well to always allow for an hour or two of daily study (in addition to Bible study), even during the summers. Just think "Abraham Lincoln" to help keep it all in balance. Young Lincoln worked during the day and flung himself down by the fireplace light to study aggressively every evening. He never quit the learning for the physical labor, or for developing his financial base. He grew them both together. William Holmes McGuffey, godly author of the McGuffey readers of the 19th century, was passionate about preaching the Good News (he memorized entire books of the Bible) and educating young children. He declared that we must "teach our children to become lifetime lovers of learning."
The value of establishing good educational habits:
If your family travels a lot, or your daily routine is often shattered, you have no hope of maintaining this academic habit unless you get organized with portable thin academically assigned storage boxes—one for each child with their name written in large print on both the top of the box and on the ends. That way if they are grabbed and stacked in the van on the way out the door, each child can quickly open his own box and make good use of ten minutes while he is out and about with his parents. This box is an extension of his head. It is the very first purchase I would make. It will be used not only for travel, but in the home, as well. The children will tote these boxes to a more quiet room to study, or take them outside under a tree. (Train them to always tuck the lids directly under the box each time the box is open, so no one trips on lids flung all over the floor :) . I recommend the $4 Sterlite 6.2 qt. boxes with the green handles. Having these school boxes is a must in order to successfully tote around and keep track of the A.C.E. paces and other academic materials, to not lose momentum, to keep each child organized without you, and to keep a grip on what comes next!
At home, the boxes are then to be put back in exactly the same place every time—on your learning wall set of shelves (read about that in the upcoming blog post on that topic). If such a system does not get put in place, much time is wasted hunting for academic materials that could be spent actually doing the academics. Making optimal use of momentum time is the organizational principle here.
Grab the time; make the time!
We raised our daughter "on the road"—and made her study year ‘round, grabbing snippets of focused time wherever life halted enough to squeeze them in, and progressing while the wheels pounded the pavement. She accomplished volumes of study in this manner. We constantly used the adage: "Use small minutes wisely to grow your brain; this is your life that you are building.
For the single best book on this topic, order Teachers' Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers.