Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning
At the beginning of this school-year I'd like to offer you encouragement. I've shared this list with some of you who've written me. To most, these tips will not be new. But perhaps one or two will particularly speak to your present need.

First, here's an illustration that helped me during my years of home teaching. Still today it helps me put "first-things-first."

Baby E. wearing what Grandma knit (spring photo)
For arranging lessons. Place an empty jelly jar on the table, an imaginative one. Then gather a couple whole walnuts. And a handful of little shelled peanuts. The walnuts and peanuts represent subjects and activities of your day or week. Now, place these nuts into the jar. You will discover that the only way they'll all fit is to put the walnuts in first, with the little peanuts filling in the spaces around them. If you place the nuts the other way 'round, you won't be able to fasten the lid. Those things you find most important in your schedule (the walnuts) put into your time-table first. Arrange the other subjects (the peanuts) around them. On different days you might have different subjects be the walnuts.

1. Children are on loan to us from God. Hannah of First Samuel is our beautiful example. We really do have them in our care for a short time.

2. Beware of comparing. With Facebook and blogs we have an open door to knowing what our friends, or extended family, are doing daily. They might be touring Europe in designer clothes while you're potty training between math and phonics, and haven't been out of an apron since daybreak. It doesn't help to continually compare our situation or teaching choices with that of others. Follow the path of your personal conviction. All education is divine. That is, the Holy Spirit comes along side us in all subjects, to guide, and enlighten. Focus on your particular blessings. Home teaching is kingdom work. Never give up.

Study Hour by John George Brown

3. Use books - don't let books (or curriculum) use you. A good book isn't boring. It has the literary power to open the door of a child's mind. It may be full of facts - the same facts found in a standard classroom textbook - but they are presented in a palatable and memorable way. If you decided to try a new book, lay a lifeless one aside without any qualms.

4. Children will chatter. Like tapping a sugar maple for its sap, the home teacher can take advantage of this talking resource. Ask your student to tell in his own words (narrate) what he has observed or read. If a quiet child says little ask “what else” and “what else” again. This is laying the foundation of composition, naturally and without tears.

5. Learning is not limited to sitting immovable at a desk. Get outdoors. Observe nature, keeping a record of your “finds” in a Nature Notebook, where science, composition, and art join hands.

Landis Valley

6. Cultivate an appreciation for what is beautiful in art and in music simply. Now and again display a picture from a famous painter, play a CD of a noteworthy composer.

Our zinnia in the front garden.
7. Look for heroes. The Bible, biography and historical fiction can supply inspiring heroes whose virtues and character qualities your child may choose to esteem and emulate. Children will catch the "scientific spirit" through biography, too. Tracing the paths of discovery, experiment and invention they will follow (what Miss Mason called) "the rise and progress of an idea."

8. Build good habits one at a time. Lay them brick by brick. It is remarkable what the quiet discipline of routine and the practice of good manners do for the home atmosphere. Prioritize and strive to be consistent. Life brings its interruptions. You will get back on track when you can. In the meantime Providence may be offering us an unexpected soul-lesson.

Moss in the shaded part of our driveway. I like moss. 
9. Keep lessons short in the beginning years. Ten to 15 minutes of math seems ridiculously short if you come from a public school background of one-hour lessons. But tutoring one-on-one is wonderfully efficient. Lessons can gradually be lengthened. The more mature the student is the more independent learning he will accomplish - during which time you can be tutoring a little one.

Friendship Star quilt made for the wall of the family room.
10. Homeschool pioneers have fought to win us legal freedom. Therefore, let's use our Mother's Prerogative. What is it that you'd like to teach? What do you want your children to know? My high school students would join me for "prerogative studies" after lunch. As long as there were children in the house - even adult children - I chose to read aloud to one - or all, somewhere in the schedule.

11. Information and knowledge are two different things. Rote-memory is only an exercise for memorizing data. Children are persons not parrots. Give children, too, all kinds of odd and interesting books and experiences and with narration they will gain the kind of wisdom-knowledge that goes into making a person.
Garden behind a picket-fence, Landis Valley

12. Curiosity is to education what a wick is to a candle. Children are born with God-given curiosity – until it is schooled out of them by constant testing, working for the grade, and peer-pressure. Asking, “What is it my child would delight in knowing more about?” safeguards curiosity. There is no better place to accomplish this than in the home school.

13. You are a person, too, who needs to keep growing. To prevent burn-out, read your Bible, dabble in domestic arts, take a nature walk, and/or any number of interests. To refresh the soul, blossom with fruits of the spirit, and polish character, we need our daily bread - the bread of life – Jesus. Taking a little time for Mother Culture, to grow yourself, is not a self-fish thing to do. The advantage does not end with yourself. When our cup overflows it spills over into the family circle – which importantly includes our husbands.

Ice-cream with glass bead "sprinkles" -gift of a friend. My rag doll likes it. 
14. Little things do make a difference. Little steps taken with daily faithfulness take us far. The home teacher strives to sow seeds of ideas in the hearts and minds of her children – rather than fill in holes. Children seemingly learn and grow in spurts and lags. Though, not evenly matched to the teacher's planner, seeds are sprouting, children are learning. Given the right food and atmosphere, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” (Gal.6:9) What is done out of love is lasting.

Thanks for visiting.

Karen Andreola

If you are reading this on your telephone you will have to check a full-size computer screen to see my email address in the side margin. I place it there to help eliminate spam mail. You can also contact me through Facebook message. Write anytime.