Homeschooling Early Elementary Aged Children: How Many Subjects Do We Need to Teach, Anyway? (Keep it Simple, Silly!)
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 15, 2010
Looked at a curriculum catalog lately? If so, you must have noticed the overwhelming number of subjects most “boxed” curriculums offer. Take a look at the number of subjects usually offered for an elementary school aged child: Bible, math, reading/phonics, grammar, handwriting, spelling/vocabulary, history, science, health, music, art, and foreign language. That’s twelve subjects in all. Some parents choose a vocabulary curriculum that is separate from spelling, adding another subject; others add separate writing, thinking skills, geography courses, too. That’s 16 subjects in all. Whew! Multiply that by more than one child: Two children = 32 different subjects…three children = 48 different subjects for you to teach….with each and every book/subject unrelated to all the others. Ridiculous.
And what about the amount of time it takes to teach all those subjects? If you adopt a “public school” mentality, you would confine your children to their chairs until they had spent 50 minutes per subject. That equals approximately 13 hours, 33 minutes of school time per day. That’s insane. Even if you only spent 30 minutes per subject, which is a much more reasonable amount of time for homeschoolers, you would still spend 8 hours per day of solid academics. Still too much! So what are we to do?! Simplify the curriculum. Click on this important link to find out how!
Don’t continue till you’ve read linked article by Dr. Ruth Beechick!
It’s a whole new way of thinking, isn’t it? As usual, Dr. Beechick makes homeschooling sound easy…almost too easy. Don’t worry though; it is a reasonable and proven approach. If you haven’t read her books, The 3R’s, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully Grades 4-8, or A Biblical Home Education, I encourage you to do so. I promise you that you’ll refer to them over and again during the years you homeschool.
Here are several other ways to keep your curriculum simple: Alternate your subjects. Alternate science OR health with history OR geography; alternate art and music, too. Be brave and teach language arts as a unified subject, as Dr. Beechick suggests (and/or count the writing/reading/etc or child does in other subjects as a part of language arts.) Never try to teach 11-15 subjects on the same day. It’s a sure recipe for burn out–both for you and your children.
Implementing these tips will get you down to 1) Bible, 2) math, 3) language arts, 4) history/geography OR science/health, 5) art OR music (and not in the form of a formal curriculum–and not everyday, unless you incorporate them into other subjects or your child practices an instrument) and 6) foreign language (which is optional; we “skip” this till junior high or high school.)
Still more ideas:
~Alternate history/geography OR science/health by day of the week, or better yet, by chapter or topic (this will edge you into unit study territory.) You should also consider if you even need a health class every year. Most of the “health” content for grades 1-4 is the type of thing parents teach their children at home through conversations: Safety rules, taking care of our eyes, keeping clean, the importance of brushing teach, etc. In my opinion, if you provide your children a health class in the 5th or 6th grade and again in high school, you’ll have it covered.
Are you still afraid to take the leap, especially in the area of language arts? Do you think you won’t be doing enough? There are several curriculums that combine the different “subjects” of language arts for you. We use Sing, Spell, Read and Write to teach our children K-2nd or 3rd grade. This combines the most important elements of language arts for the early years (phonics, reading, writing, and spelling.) This is all children need until they can read well.
Once your children are reading well and ready for more, take a look at an “all in one” language arts curriculum such as Learning Language Arts Through Literature, (we love the old, out-of-print spiral bound editions best) or Queen’s Language Lessons, which include poetry and picture study. Alternately, you can use the Charlotte Mason method–pulling your language arts lessons from your reading (copywork, dictation, and narration from the books you are already reading for history/science; see how to do it HERE.) You can also pull your spelling words and vocabulary words from your reading, if you’d like to. It’s easy and it’s free.
Finally, consider an entirely different method of homeschooling—one that will really simplify the curriculum. If you switch from a textbook approach to a unit study/literature approach, you can cut your subjects down to four: 1) Bible, 2), math, 3) language arts, and 4) unit study. Some of these four subjects might have more than one element, but still, doesn’t this sound more reasonable? It is especially useful for teaching multiple children.
It’s something to think about…simplifying your curriculum.
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.