In my early years of learning at home I worked pretty hard. I sorted curriculum, marked worksheets and workbooks and planned out each week’s work. A large part of my Sunday evening was spent in ‘teacher time’. I really enjoyed it…at the time. Once I realised that I could emulate school and do a fairly good job of it the novelty wore off, especially when I observed how well my children learned many things naturally, in their everyday environment.

Then came Testing Time! We tested by using oral narrations, as the children were still quite young and narration was our most frequently used method of learning and processing information. I was a little dismayed to find that while the girls were able to recall some of the information that had taken me some time to devise into a course of study, there was a lot that they simply didn’t retain! I was yet to learn (have understanding and wisdom, not just knowledge) that the early years of childhood and education are more about exposing children to great ideas, stimulating their minds, nourishing their heart and soul, forming good habits and developing daily disciples than sheer academics. 🙂

I think it all started when we went away on a holiday. We were exposing the children to a variety of experiences…we put stimulating ideas before them…we gave them nourishing thoughts to ponder, interesting things to do and see…and their learning took off, all of its own accord! They were growing, developing, learning (and enjoying it), and true education was happening yet it wasn’t laborious for me, nor for them! It wasn’t hard. I started to question the value of everything I had been doing. I was working pretty hard yet was beginning to sense that it wasn’t the most efficient way to work or learn.

I discovered that simply doing workbooks and reading lots of books is not enough life experience for my children to learn all that they have to learn – there has to be more. That ‘more’ has to be in the form of establishing relationships with others and with God. This enables them to have many experiences in which they can learn from. However, I also learned that I could spend hours reading a good book to the girls yet they wouldn’t only retain a marginal amount of it. How frustrating. Why did this happen? how could I maximise that proportion? I’ve found that by reading the books with them allows me to know what is going on so long after the book is finished, we can still talk about the book or movie. We can relate back to certain incidences and learn from that. If I’m not a part of that with them then that opportunity is limited. The key here is for me to be with the children. While it may seem the harder or longer road, it is actually the smarter, easier road.

The primary years are ones of collecting knowledge. I imagine it to be a smorgasboard where the children can sample a huge variety of foods, tasting each one a few times to see what really grabs them. I would have them sample the marinated mushrooms and picked octopus at least three times before they can declare that they don’t like them. But I’ll carefully observe them during this time…watching to see how they taste, what they naturally gravitate toward. This arms me with valuable information about each child. I take note of their individual likes and dislikes and I plan the meals accordingly. Naturally, I don’t cater to every whim and fancy. Some meals will still have picked octopus in them! It is good for them to learn character and good manners by eating something they don’t naturally like. Plus the slow and regular exposure to it may just help to form their taste buds and appetite. 😉 (but that’s a whole ‘nother post) How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Even though my child may not be interested in nature study I will still want them to sample it. Even this sampling can have an effect upon their lives. But I don’t need to get caught up in it or feel guilty about not doing it if it is not pleasant to our palate. However, my time might be better served by focussing on the foods that they will eat. I can always disguise the octopus and mushrooms and hide them in another dish. 😉

There are times when we should require 100% of best effort from our students and other times when it is acceptable to ask for less, if they are sampling and deciding what next to focus upon. We need to teach our children how to give 100% and deliver good quality but we also need to teach them how to optimise their time and how to look for things that yield productivity.

What do you spend most of your time learning about? Is it working for you? What is most important to you as a homeschool mother? In your homeschool, what activities give you the greatest results? Do you need to re-prioritise and refocus your energies?