My oldest son is 10, and he’s in fourth grade. He’s always been homeschooled, so you’d think his mother would have it all down pat by now. If only! The last few years have seen us trying this curriculum or that, making our own, reading more books than you can imagine, and spending too much money, all in the hopes of finding the perfect method that truly justifies our homeschooling venture.
We’ve settled on a love of literature, best seen in the writings of Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason. We prefer living books, books that spark the imagination and encourage a lifelong love of learning. We prefer a gentle, relaxed approach to learning.
But we’re discovering there is more than one way to skin a cat.
For instance, our son has never had homework. Not until yesterday, that is. We’re using A Beka’s fourth grade history textbook as our “spine” and adding in “living books” from Sonlight’s catalog. Yesterday the teacher’s manual for A Beka recommended that the student answer the questions on pages 47-49, the questions at the end of the chapter.
I was revolted. How boring! How trivial! Was it my goal to teach my son to parrot historical facts from a textbook? Or did I want him to internalize the big picture of American history by getting to know real characters and real authors and real issues from those time periods (in the pages of real books, of course)?
Yet I gave my son this homework assignment. I followed it to the letter. I was amazed at the result.
Arik asked me, “Mom, when should I do my homework? Do you want me to do it right now?” Good question. After all, for a homeschooled child, when is school really over for the day so that homework time can begin?
“I don’t care when you do it, Arik, as long as it’s done before lunch tomorrow.” (We usually do history after lunch.)
“Well, when do you want me to do it, Mom?” He was lost. He’d never had this kind of choice before.
“You could do it now, you could do it after supper, you could do it as soon as you wake up in the morning, or even right after breakfast,” I replied. “As long as it’s done before lunch, I don’t care.”
Perplexed, he went to talk to his younger brother and sister. “Andrew,” he asked, “When do you think I should do it?”
Andrew and Kaitlyn discussed this new thing called “homework” for several minutes. Finally, Andrew (age 5) wisely turned to his older brother and said, “Arik, I think you should do it right away and get it done!” And that’s what Arik did!
I smiled. This was a successful homeschooling day! My son learned initiative and planning and how not to procrastinate. Yes, he reviewed facts, but we’ve added plenty of great books to our plan (like Sign of the Beaver and The Courage of Sarah Noble) to ensure that his imagination will be stirred. On the other hand, I am confident that he’ll not only be inspired but that he’ll also have solid facts in his mind on which he can hang his inspiration.
Homework for a homeschooled child? Maybe it needs a better name. Meanwhile, in our house, this old-fashioned idea is here to stay!