I think the most important thing
we can teach our children is *how* to learn. If they know how to find
information then they will always be well educated. There is no way
that we can teach our kids everything they need to know, especially
when we have no idea what they will end up doing with their lives.
When I was younger I took gymnastics for years, and before that tap
and ballet for a time. Those are skills I have not used in my adult
life, but I don't think they were a waste of time. In the same vein,
we can give our kids a certain body of knowledge or skills, based on
their talents and interests at the time, but they may or may not be
of any use in the future.
My oldest son has already passed me in computer knowledge, and some
areas of science, but he is still learning. In the case of computers
I have purchased several books on programming, languages, and designing
web pages, and also found someone who is willing to tutor him on an
as needed basis. In the area of science I just keep buying books, science
equipment, and praying he doesn't blow up the house!
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From a Christian unschooling perspective I would
say that God has placed children with parents who are uniquely blessed
with the ability to meet the specific needs--academic and other wise--
of their children. If we pray for God's guidance in our lives and in
our children's lives, and truly believe that He will guide us if we
ask Him, then we can know with certainty that when our children need
to know something, He will provide a way for us to see that they learn
If you're looking for examples, my 7 year old daughter has an interest
in China. We've read books about China from the library. A woman in
our homeschool co-op grew up in China and is bilingual. She taught a
great intro to Chinese language class in our co-op. A friend has recently
offered to drive with us to Philadelphia to see the Chinese displays
at the art museum. We went to a Chinese restraunt and when dd asked
about chopsticks, the owner brought a pair out and sat with her and
showed her how to use them. I could never have taught her about the
Chinese language or taught her how to use chopsticks, and I'm not comfortable
driving in big cities to take her to that museum. But God has placed
people in our lives to help us learn what she needed to learn.
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I do not teach Latin or Math. We use Artes Latinae
which is a self teaching Latin grammar. My 13 year old does it on his
own. I'll be starting my 11 year old soon.
My kids work their own way through Saxon. All I do is check answers
and help if they get stuck.
They are all taking classes this summer learning things that I don't
know (theater, juggling, computer, sports conditioning which includes
running techniques etc.) They have learned about soccer, baseball, umpiring,
swimming, skiing and golf from teachers and coaches other than dh and
They learn a lot through their reading. One of my sons knows a lot about
animals because he reads a lot about them. He's always telling me little
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I just got this question from a nice lady this weekend.
(Since she was sincere, I attempted to explain.) I was able to appease
her question by stating I have a college degree and that there are lots
of classes hs kids can sign up for (local homeschool academy, community
college, etc.) Since mine are so young, I still just get "what if" questions.
I'm getting good practice now, though!
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oh-oh-oh (Jaci gets excited) --- this is my son and
mechanics, especially those having to do with aeronautics. He is self
taught, picks it up naturally, very well read on the subject. (Not very
well read on a lot of other things, but airplanes and such...)
Shoot, I taught myself (or rather, researched on my own) horse care.
I'm a self taught aritst (some formal training). What you do is teach
them how to research and look stuff up. THEN they teach themselves by
Or, in the case of things like music -- I found an outside teacher.
Ours is relatively free (public school), but you can pay for lessons,
too. Levi is teaching himself guitar right now, but he has a background
in violin. And friends who help.
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I'm responding late 'cuz we've been on vacation,
but I have to put in my $.02! My children are both very independent
learners, in fact, the areas where they excel and learn the most (theater,
music) are things I know little or nothing about. Your question was
HOW to do it... but I've had to start by asking WHY?... "why HAVE my
children gone ahead and consistently set off into all kinds of areas
where there is no "teacher" available?" The answer hit me just now --
I guess it is because they've seen their parents do it!
When they were little, they watched as we built a house. Did we go to
a school or take a class on housebuilding? No; we read books, asked
questions, employed others with more tools or skills when we needed
to, and generally just learned as we went along. Two years after that,
they watched as I designed and built the kitchen cabinets. They came
along to the lumber yard while I laboriously figured out which pieces
of cherry would contain enough board feet in the right size pieces to
do the job, and they saw me consulting a book every step of the way
as I learned. It was a huge project which occupied an entire year of
my life. They saw the satisfaction I felt when it was done. The next
year we needed another bookshelf. They were old enough by then to help
me look through books to find a pattern to use for the one I ended up
building, and old enough to notice that I made some changes so it would
be just right for us. They watched as I wrestled with a type of joint
I'd never made before. The following year I bought a spinning wheel,
and my daughter came along when I took a class to learn the basics of
spinning. While we were there, she fell in love with an angora rabbit,
and we went home with a fiber source. She watched as I used books and
ask questions of others in order to teach myself to spin all kinds of
fibers, working my way toward the more difficult task of spinning angora.
A few years ago we added a garage and workshop onto our home, and this
time, both kids were able to wrestle along with us over floor plans,
costs, needs vs. desires... and they helped determine how we were going
to go about saving the money that was needed for the project. This year
my 13 yo son has taken on the basement-finishing project, drawing up
the plans, learning to frame walls, learning to put in the rough electrical,
vapor barrier, insulation, learning to tape drywall, etc.
When we wanted to learn Latin, I couldn't TEACH it, since I hadn't learned
it yet myself, but I sat down and learned it right along with them.
(Actually, I was usually a step or two behind them!) When they had questions
I couldn't answer, we managed to find the answers together... I believe
those kinds of answers "stick" better than those instantly provided
by an "expert." The experience of seeing that adults don't know everything
and recognizing that even THEY are continually learning is so important...
and it is a new idea to a lot of the public-schooled kids that I teach
to knit. The whole model of learning where the "teacher" stands before
the "student" and transmits the "information" just encourages the "ask
the expert" mindset so prevalent today. It convinces people that they
can't think for themselves!
I guess our children have learned not to be intimidated by something
they have no experience with! They've seen from our example over the
years that there is no shame in asking questions... an honest admission
of "I don't know" never hurts anyone. I believe that admitting that
we NEED to learn something is the first step in learning... a false
pride or overinflated idea of ones' knowledge is a huge roadblock! My
kids have noticed recently that adults in their lives who are interesting
and fun to be with are people who are both curious and humble... they
have a drive to understand things, and they are not afraid to admit
ignorance. I think those are the keys to learning!
I've often said that my goal in homeschooling is to help my children
grow into godly adults who are life-long learners. Sometimes people
ask me what I mean by "life-long learners," and I ask them to tell me
what they do for a living, or what things they enjoy doing in their
free time. Then I ask them whether they learned those things in school.
95% of the time, they chuckle and agree that they understand my point...
school is a fairly artificial environment for learning. (The saddest
case is the person I remember who had no interests or hobbies, and whose
job only required the skills they had learned in school. This person
said to me "Well, I guess it is up to each person to decide if they
WANT to keep learning throughout life!")
How do I teach what I don't know? I show them by my life how "I" learn
what I don't know, I make sure they have the right tools (like reading),
and then I give them the gift of time to do it for themselves.
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