When we first began homeschooling, I was a voracious reader about teaching styles and methods. I read many books that caused me to rethink education and convinced me that I didn’t need to recreate my own public school experience in our homeschool. Maybe it was even better not to. With my mind opened to new possibilities, I was motivated to think outside the desk, and determined to find what worked for our family – what allowed our children to flourish and didn’t burn me out as the teacher. I wanted all of us to enjoy our homeschooling lifestyle.
When studying different approaches to homeschooling, the Charlotte Mason, or “Living Book Approach” most appealed to me. It relied heavily on literature (versus textbooks) and allowed me to teach both of my children, who were four years apart, at the same time in many subjects. As a result, I spent a lot of time reading out loud to both of them in subjects such as Bible, Literature, Science, and History. A few years into homeschooling I discovered Sonlight Curriculum and we used it for over ten years.
I had read The War Against Boys when our son was about four years old. In her book, author Christina Hoff Sommers wrote that many schools were cutting recess time, or doing away with it altogether, and how that negatively affected boys, in particular. It made sense to me that young children needed to move around, so when we started homeschooling I did as much school outside as possible. While I read aloud, I would let Hayden (and later, Margaret) swing, climb a tree, or even ride his bike nearby, as long as he could hear my voice. When we had school inside I also let the kids keep their hands busy. Hayden usually played with Legos while Margaret usually drew. I stopped often and asked the kids to tell me what I had just read. It amazed me, that even though they were being active, they could usually repeat what I had read, pretty much verbatim.
In 2006 there was a movie called Akeelah and the Bee. It was about a young girl who discovered she had an aptitude for spelling, and she advanced through the local and regional Spelling Bees, eventually winning the national Spelling Bee. The movie followed her through the process and chronicled how she came to find and hire a coach and the methods he used to prepare her.
At one point he discovers that she retains the information better while she is doing something rhythmic such as jumping rope or bouncing a ball. This type of learning is called “kinesthetic.” I had already discovered for myself that my son learned very well while having the freedom of movement.
Also consider this report from Plymouth University and Western Sydney University which considers the impact that outdoor learning has on a child’s quality of life. Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling.
This is one of those areas where homeschooling really gives us an advantage to cater to the needs of our kids. I started homeschooling with an assumption that, in order to learn, kids needed to be sitting quietly at a desk (or table). Not only is that not true, but from my own experiences, I now believe that by meeting the physical need for muscles to move, it frees the mind to learn even better. Not all children have this need, but for the ones that do, it makes a huge difference.
If you are new to homeschooling and have young children, try letting your kids be busy with their bodies, or even just hands, while you read aloud and see how it affects their listening and retaining skills. Embrace the freedom of homeschooling and find what works best for your family.