Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Life Lessons: The Benefits of Teaching About Things Outside of Academics

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There are many reasons that most of us come to the decision to teach our children ourselves.
Perhaps your concern was one of safety. In a world where events such as Sandy Hook are possible, isn't it only natural to want to keep your children close at hand? To be able to watch out for them and be confident in your own security concerns?
Or it may be concern over the education system, underfunded and with huge class sizes.
It may have been a desire for a more faith-based education.
Or perhaps, the pure feeling that you can provide a richer, more developed education than a standard curriculum.
For all the critiques of homeschooling, the final point blows them out of the water. A school curriculum is decided on the basis of what works for the majority. It pays no attention to kids of different abilities, different learning speeds or different interests. Does it make sense for the child who is determined to be an engineer to spend hours dedicated to an art class? Or vice versa? You can give a general grounding and then help shape their future in the way that they want, not what a board of education wants.
Of course, you have to consider the needs for socialization and meeting the requirements they will need for further education. But you also have a world of opportunity to teach them about things that no normal school would teach.
When you have been homeschooling for awhile, you've probably got the hang of it. No one is going to tell you how to change things; that's the entire point, isn't it? Being able to figure your own way of doing things? Your fundamentals are spot on, and you probably know how to find advice should you feel some areas are lacking. You're winning this one.
Nevertheless, homeschooling can be somewhat inward-facing. You are the parent; the teacher; the disciplinarian; the course-setter; the examiner. So many different roles to juggle and none of them easy. So once in awhile, it's worth stepping back and seeing if there are a few other areas you might be able to expand upon.
Learning Doesn't Have To Be Academic
This is a major failing of standard schooling, and it has been since the beginning of time. We are more aware than ever that children are taught to pass a test and gain qualifications, rather than enrich their lives with knowledge. This rigorous testing procedure, knowledge for the sake of an exam, does a number on many kids as they grow. We all probably had that one subject we hated at school. Maybe the teacher was strict, or we just didn't pick it up that quickly; so a lifelong loathing for the entire idea of it sticks around.
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With homeschooling, you can prevent this. There are many things in life that we don't need to know about to pass a test, but so we can be good civilians. You can imbue your children with a knowledge of things that most have to learn on the fly or perhaps not at all. It's been posited that millennials are a cosseted generation of super snowflakes.
This isn't actually true; no generation is inherently worse than the one that went before it. It's just that our priorities have changed. No one looks at the areas outside of academics anymore, meaning you end up with people in their 20s asking incredibly stupid things of Google.
By expanding your children's horizons, you can spend their formative years teaching a vast range of subjects. Subjects that, in a regular school, they would never study.
So while no one can tell you what or how to teach your kids, it's nevertheless worth a few suggestions. You can push the boundaries and give your children a rounded, beneficial education by adding one (or more!) of the following into your routine.

1. Citizenship - Tax, Economics, and Accounting, Oh My!
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The fact this is barely touched upon in conventional schools is staggering. We send kids off to college without ever teaching them to manage money and then wonder why they get into debt.
Giving your children the basics of personal finance and how the tax system works is a lesson they will reap the benefits of for a lifetime. It can even be a way of teaching when you have real tax and administration tasks to do, so everybody wins!

2. Basic Housekeeping - Making A Comeback!
It seems every sitcom has an episode where an apparent adult has to call a family member (usually their Dad) to fix a basic home problem. Maybe they have drilled through a pipe or need to put together flat-pack furniture; the whole idea is derisive, comical. Yet it's a reality.
Bringing an element of home maintenance into lessons gives your pupils a chance to expand on several key areas. They can learn about the dangers of neglecting chores; show them how gutters clog without proper cleaning. They can learn rational and decision-making skills, such as when to tap a leak themselves and when to call BenFranklinCLT.com for help.
Again, this can all be done as part of normal life that becomes a teachable moment. Rather than wondering how you juggle time for your real home maintenance tasks and time spent in your classroom, bring them together. There are plenty of how-to videos you can find free online to expand your knowledge and theirs. It gives you a great chance to emphasize safety, knowing when to call in the pros and making decisions under pressure.

3. Proper Animal Care - Care of Non-Magical Creatures!
Even if you don't have pets!
Children, especially young children, have to be taught to respect animals. They also need to learn to care for them. Obviously, if you do have pets then this can be adapted into your routine. If not, then use it in the abstract as thought exercises.
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Many schools have a "class pet", and it's worth considering doing the same. A small furry creature like a hamster - cute but not much work - can teach responsibility better than any lecture can. You can consider proper care, regular routines and the consequences of neglect. It's also important to emphasize how to handle animals, for both your kid's sake and any pets they may have in future.

4. Doing Nothing - The Delights of Pretend Play!
Yes, nothing.
Conventional school time is very structured. There's a strict timetable, and everyone has to be in a particular place at a given time. The lesson is then laid out for them, they complete it, and then they move to the next class for more of the same.
For one hour every few weeks, schedule nothing - and I mean nothing. No TV, no smartphones, no board games. Just them and their imagination. Find something to do to entertain yourself.
Children have wonderful imaginations, but unfortunately, conventional schooling trains it out of them. Even if we as homeschoolers are too rigorous with our schedules, we can end up doing the same. By making time for children to engage with themselves, their thoughts and find their own stimulation, we keep that side of them blooming.

5. Technology and Coding - Digital Natives To The Rescue!
Even if the above sounds a bit daunting to you, there are plenty of online resources to help children learn to code, such as Tynker.com. There's plenty of reason for it as well. Your kids are digital natives, so technology is going to play a huge part in their working lives. To be able to code and program is going to offer them a vast scope when it comes to applying for jobs and through their careers.
There is also the fact that youth is a huge selling point for coding. It is, effectively, another language - and we all know children pick up languages far easier than adults do. It's also a time in front of a screen that is beneficial and can be a creative outlet if you incorporate graphic design into the process too.

6. Emotional Well-Being - The Fundamentals!
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Mental health is a huge factor for all of us but is massively overlooked by modern schooling. You can teach about the various types of mental illness and how to deal with and understand people who suffer from them.
You can also teach about the principles of self-care and why it's so vital. By focusing on emotional needs and encouraging children to be outspoken about them, you give them a head start. If you do this and apply the techniques correctly, they will be light years ahead of their peers when it comes to emotional intelligence.
All in all, the options are endless - the benefits of setting your own lesson plans. Look for activities that are both enjoyable and beneficial, with an extra spin of strengthening another skill at the same time. Crafting can help tune fine motor function; even a game of charades can help with language skills. You don't have the restrictions of a classroom, so don't accept the limitations of academia as the only way of learning.
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