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Teaching Tips

Teaching Multiple Ages Simultaneously - Broad Guidelines

This is a concept that tends to intimidate and exasperate many homeschooling parents.

The reason why so often this happens is that people in general tend to worry too much about the content and not enough about developing skills.

We live in an information age, where information is changing all the time. There’s an information explosion; and we can’t possibly deal with all the information.
Yes, unquestionably, we need to develop an understanding of the basic information, but once this has been done, then we need to focus on developing the skills, because ultimately we will need to be able to read it, understand it and represent it in different ways e.g. diagrams, speeches, text etc.

Take for example a topic like teaching about LEAVES as part of Biology, to multiple ages… a 5 year old Grade 0, a 9 year old Grade 4 and a 14 year old Grade 9:
(As a broad guideline, one would pitch the lesson at the oldest child’s level; and then simplify as you move down through the ages)

Grade 0 (5 yrs)

You could task them to go into the garden to look for different kinds and shapes of leaves, e.g. serrated, straight-edged, lobed etc.
Once they’ve gathered these up, they can take paper and do a rubbing with crayons to record the different kinds of leaves that plants have.
As part of the lesson they would also learn that leaves makes food for plants.

Skills development:

  • Classifying / categorising leaves
  • Crayon “rubbing” helps develop their fine motor-skills

Grade 4 (9 yrs)
They too learn that leaves manufacture food for plants; and they’re also old enough to know about “photosynthesis” in words only; and perhaps draw a simple diagram with arrows, to illustrate the concept.

Skills development:

  • Learning and acquiring the skill of taking facts and expressing them in language; and
  • Taking facts and expressing them in a diagram.

Grade 9 (14 yrs)
In addition to obviously knowing all that the younger children know, they are able to, for example, draw a cross-section through the leaf, explain the chemical formula of both words and symbols of photosynthesis, explain how gaseous exchange takes place with reference to photosynthesis and demonstrate it all in a well put together diagram.

Skills development:

  • Working at almost an IGCSE level and largely content-based.
  • Learning to work through large volumes of work and in such a way as being able to apply formulae to their work.

Is it important for my child to learn cursive handwriting?

We strongly encourage families to teach their children to write in cursive. From feedback we’ve had from our Tutors for our British Grades 10 - 12 Levels, it’s interesting that they have observed that students who only learn to print and not write cursive, sometimes struggle to finish their exam papers, because they cannot write fast enough! Love2Learn Curriculum progressively builds handwriting/penmanship, commencing with letter formation in the pre-school and Grade 1 levels, then moving to printing in Grade 1 and Grade 2; and finally culminates in teaching cursive handwriting in the latter part of Grade 2 and cementing it in Grade 3.

Do you address several subjects each day or dedicate a day to a subject? What would you advise?

Our timetable aligns with Charlotte Mason's educational philosopy, viz. offering several short lessons rather than long, drawn out ones. However the timetable is flexible and our recommendation is to try the timetable as it is prescribed for a week or two, and then evaluate how it works for you. Some families using Love2Learn even go so far as to do all their History on Monday, all their Sciences on Tuesday, etc. What works for you is the best solution.

Can you suggest any good books that I can read that will help me in terms of marrying home-schooling and socialisation?

As a home-schooling mom of two, I say stop letting people get away with ignorant remarks about how your child will be socially deprived if they are homeschooled. Do the research and be ready to point out that in fact your children will be BETTER off socially than their institutionally schooled counterparts We would highly recommend you read two wonderful books on this subject and which we believe will be a great help to any homeschool parent who has ever experienced angst over the question of socialisation: The Socialisation Trap, by Rick Boyer; which deals more with the negative aspects of socialising kids in the age segregated environments so common in modern institutional school settings. But What about Socialisation? by Susan A. McDowell. Have friends or family members been bothering you about the socialisation question? This book is a quick and easy read. No grandparent who has time to complain about your decision to homeschool will have any excuse not to read through this book. Also if you find yourself questioning your own decision to homeschool because of other people's attacks regarding socialisation, then this book will help to remind you that you are doing the right thing. Ultimately it will be your comfort and confidence that will convince people to stop attacking your decisions. If you are wavering on the issue, then people will sense that and swoop in for the kill. If you are confident however, then people will sense that too and they will begin to question their own ignorant ideas about socialisation.

What would you advise in regard to dealing with a child that performs well when answering questions verbally, but fails dismally when it comes to writing tests and exams?

All we can do is offer you some general tips and ideas that you can try, but we by no means offer these to you under any pretence that theyare scientifically proven and psychologically sound; rather these tips are simply gleaned from our experience over the years:

  1. In the week coming up to a test in a particular subject, pray and exhibit total confidence in your child and make at least 20 positive comments about their performance in the course of that week.
  2. Downplay the test – in fact don’t even call it a test – rather refer to it as a Fun Quiz.
  3. Ensure that they are having adequate sleep and that their diet is under control.
  4. Limit TV or any kind of computer games to a maximum of ½ hour a week. It’s a proven fact that the speed of energy change from this type of device is known to cause and exacerbate Attention Deficit.
  5. On the morning of the Fun Quiz, pray with them – pray over them throughout the duration of the Quiz and pray against outside interference of a negative spiritual nature… then only mark the sections of the Quiz right that are correct. Verbally quiz them on the answers that may be incorrect without making any comment that they were incorrect. In this way you can determine whether the error was stress induced or caused by insufficient knowledge/understanding/preparation.
  6. Praise them after the test for the things they got right; and ignore the incorrect answers - regardless of what result they got.

Consider all of the above a four week experiment. As with any scientific experiment one needs to keep the approach absolutely consistent; therefore, be sure to implement all of the above carefully and consistently for the full four week duration. Do not expect to see an improvement until the END of the fourth week. More than this the approach we suggest for Quiz taking should be applied to every moment of homeschooling, i.e. a positive atmosphere of acceptance should be maintained. If you see no improvement after four weeks, then there may well be some underlying trauma of which you are completely unaware. In this case, we would recommend that you take your child to a Christian Educational Psychologist. All of the above applies assuming that there are no character issues such as disinterest, lack of application, lack of obedience etc. that need addressing.

Does it matter that I’m not a qualified teacher?

International research has proven that when homeschooled children that come from homes where Mom and/or Dad is a qualified teacher are compared with children who come from homes where neither Mom nor Dad is a qualified teacher – they perform exactly the same academically. There is nothing to be gained either way. Interestingly enough we often get feedback from our families where Mom is an ex-teacher, who say that they - not their children - sometimes battle to adjust to homeschooling. Remember from our perspective, homeschooling is not the importation of the classroom into the home… rather it is first and foremost the discipleship of our children to prepare them for life; and we achieve this by putting the “home” back into schooling. No one on the face of planet earth knows your children better than you do. To find out more about this topic Click Here.

I find I sometimes run out of time because we are having so much fun, what should I do?

There are two schools of thought on this: The first school of thought is based on if you want to complete the curriculum, exactly as it is written, and complete all of the work in the day provided, then the time allocation on every area needs to be very strictly adhered to, otherwise it is impossible to complete everything within the set time limit and school will run over time. The second school of thought, (which we personally prefer) is that if the children are on a roll, enjoying a particular area, loving the internet, up to their elbows in paint and glue making a history project, or engrossed in their drawings...let them continue. It doesn't matter if you don't complete everything in a day...there is way, way more in this curriculum than you would ever cover in a mainstream school. (So if you choose this option, then relax and ENJOY!) That said, one does ideally need to be discerning; after all, the life lesson is not meant to be that we only do what we enjoy doing and ignore the rest... 

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