How to Educate Your Kids at Home
Learning at home is not the same as school. Home-based learning is very different, and many parents may experience frustration if they try to make a school in their home. In fact, schools would do well to model their environments after the home rather than the other way around.
Homes don’t have bells. This is actually a good thing. You don’t need eight subjects a day, and you don’t have to suddenly stop and change course at a certain time when a bell goes off. Home-based learning is centered around the student. Rather than the student adapting his or her learning to a preset schedule with bells and buzzers, the learning experience follows the student.
You have a basic outline of subjects and supplies, and you learn together without bells and buzzers to interrupt your student’s concentration. But what if your student is not interested at all? Perhaps he or she has concerns that need to be addressed first, before starting an academic subject. That is the time to ask open-ended questions and listen. You may find that he or she does not feel safe during these uncertain times.
There is much to learn in life, and you may not find many all-important lessons in your distance learning texts. There are lessons to learn on courage, as well as persistence in the face of adversity. As an example, you can tell your children that brave people, like our health care professionals and people working in the food industry, are sometimes afraid. There can be an English lesson as the student writes about his or her thoughts, or expresses them in music or art. Allow the child’s concerns to steer the learning.
In regular school, there is no choice but to have one lesson fit all the students; at home, you can allow the student’s concerns and ideas to lead the way. Embrace your new freedom. The world is your classroom. You may decide it would be fun to learn Greek and Latin roots for English. Then go outside. The root of the day could be “dentate,” which means “tooth-like” — and the assignment is to go out and find examples of “dentate” in leaves, branches, rocks, or anything else. This way of learning involves the whole person and is connected to the way people have learned for thousands of years. All the senses are involved. It’s more natural to learn while walking, touching, singing, and doing.
In fact, it says in the Shema: (Deut.6): “Teach your children … while walking on the road, while lying down and getting up.”
Don’t forget to include rewards to make it fun. In life, adults earn salaries at the end of the work week. Our ancestors, as they gathered fruits and nuts, would be rewarded by enjoying some of the food as they gathered. There’s nothing wrong with giving your student rewards for steps along the way. You can hand out treats or certificates or marbles, or something the students can collect and redeem for a prize or a pizza party. You can also do a silly stretch or a silly dance at the end of an “assignment.” Let your imagination go, and even more importantly, have some fun along the way.
Tara Mizrachi is a former US Army wife and the author of Software for the Soul: Psalms for Everyone — Discovering the Inner Meanings. She hosts www.psalmsonline.org.