study the history, physical geography,
and cultural/religious beliefs of the area.
Note that when you are adopting this
approach, you do not necessarily have to
have the entire year planned, just plan
one month at a time! However, if you
also want to be able to purchase a few
materials to go with the library resources,
it is best to plan about two months in advance so you will have time to receive any
materials you have ordered.
Last month, we discussed how to help
children learn to use the library on their
own. I always believe in including the
children in the selection and planning
of the instruction as much as possible.
Once a topic has been agreed upon, I
also believe in letting the children find at
least some of the materials on their own.
At this point, asking for help from the librarians is invaluable.
Both fiction books and non-fiction
books can be useful resources. For example, in U. S. history, in addition to good
non-fiction books on a topic, we also incorporated historical fiction, real biographies, and fictionalized biographies. For
example, if we studied the Revolutionary
War Period, we would obtain non-fiction
books on the war, a real biography of
Benjamin Franklin, a fictionalized biography (Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life
of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse
Amos by Robert Lawson), and a historical fiction book (Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes).
In science, there are many good non-fiction books on a variety of topics.
When I was young, I collected Golden
Nature Field Guides. I still have a few of
these on my shelves fifty years later! Of
course, there are also many good fiction
books that deal with science topics, as
well as science fiction stories.
When studying either social studies or
science using primarily reading materials (or videos) from the public library, it
is important to also supplement with real
life activities and hands-on experiences.
In an earlier article in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I discussed the “project
method.” Real life projects, such as building a garden, making a pond, creating a
compost pile, raising worms, putting up
a birdfeeder, making leaf collections, etc.,
serve to make the unit studies come to
life and motivate the students to want to
read and write about their experiences.
In history, there are also many oppor-
tunities to participate in hands-on ex-
periences and field trips. Reenactments
of historical events, family-based field
trips to historical places, visits to muse-
ums, and travelling around the county
are all vital parts of learning about his-
tory. When actual experiences are not
possible, vicarious experiences can sub-
stitute, such as watching travel videos
or planning pretend trips. I have to say,
though, that I studied English history
and geography with an extreme lack of
enthusiasm for years, until the day I fi-
nally was standing on Hadrian’s Wall,
and later ambling about the countryside
in Ambleside, in the lake district of Eng-
land. That was two years ago, and for the
first time I actually really DO care about
English geography and history! There
is never any real substitute for personal
experiences of this kind. (Remember,
though, that life continues after home-
schooling . . . your job isn’t to make sure
they “learn everything” by 18. Your job is
to try to help them develop into lifelong
learners, who will love to keep on expe-
riencing and learning on their own well
into their adult lives.)
Some of this may seem daunting to
those of you who are just starting out. I
know it is very tempting to just go ahead
and fork out hundreds of dollars to get
someone else to plan your curriculum
for you. The only problem is, then it will
never really be YOUR curriculum, and
the children will have an even less feeling of ownership over their learning experiences. I promise, if you just give this
approach a try, you will find that you
love it and are much more creative than
you ever believed! And even if you aren’t,
your kids are very apt to respond (given
a little time to adjust) and show you how
interested they can be when they are
actually given responsibility for helping
design their own studies!
Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband,
Roy, homeschooled their five children
since the early 1980s. All have successfully made the transition to adulthood.
Mary has a Ph.D. in education and is
the director of ARCHERS for the Lord,
Inc. (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators). She is the author
of The Relaxed Home School, The Joyful Home Schooler, and other books,
and is available for speaking engagements. Contact her via her website, www
Your job is to try to
help them develop
into lifelong learners,
who will love to keep
on experiencing and
learning on their own
well into their adult lives.