I've been homeschooling my daughter from preschool through to 4th grade and as we finish up the grammar stage of classical education, I can tell that you I've learned a LOT and wanted to share. Maybe you are just beginning homeschooling or have a year or so under your belt, here is what I would tell you:
- God should always be FIRST! - your homeschool won't work to the glory of God if you get caught up in academics and exclude Him. Reading the Bible daily for you and your children is far more important than anything else they will learn. If you find yourself having trouble homeschooling, look and see the place that you put God in - if He isn't first, then you need to reorganize!
- Reading is the most important - Teach your child to read and read well EARLY on! My daughter was reading fluently at a 4th grade level in 1st grade following The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. If you don't get them reading on their own, you will find you will be doing a lot of teaching and get burnt out and quit. Most children should be reading at LEAST 1 1/2 hours a day - it doesn't just stop with phonics, your child has to read books a lot to master it. You will also find that their English, writing and spelling improves the more they read. I find a lot of people that have problems homeschooling, haven't taught their child to read on their own - or if they have, they didn't make their child read books everyday - you are shooting yourself in the foot here.....get them to READ!!
- After Bible and reading, math is next - If you can just teach 3 things, teach these. Even if you don't get around to grammar, writing or spelling - it will be taken care of in reading. Math is so important and one subject you should never get behind in. Definitely don't take more than 2 weeks off from math because concepts will be lost in the early grades.
- Child should be independent by 3rd grade - if you do the above 3 and are following the classical method, most children should be able to do most of their schoolwork independently. There may still be a few things you have to teach, like writing (which only takes 10 minutes) but for the most part, you shouldn't be doing much at all. How so? Well, you got your child to read on their own! You also spent 1st and 2nd grade doing narration, which means they learned how to read to understand (comprehension). If you have problems by this grade, check to make sure God is first and your child can read on their own and does read books from 1-2 hours every day. Even with slower children, by 4th grade if you don't see independence in most subjects - examine what is going on.
- Classical Education is superior - I've looked at a lot of different methods, compared with my public and private school education as well and come to the conclusion that classical education is far superior to any other. Why? Well, it teaches to the mind of the child. In the grammar stages, your child is a sponge soaking up everything. In the logic stages, they start to ask why and to find out the answers - in other words, they learn to THINK! By the rhetoric stage, they take all the information they've absorbed and the thinking skills are able to defend their viewpoints and back up their beliefs. They don't teach this in other methods and they sure don't teach it in public schools!
- Include secular beliefs and books - Don't be a Christian hermit and shelter your child from anything that doesn't have a scripture in it or reference to God. Your children need to know what evolution is and why it is wrong! They need to see both sides, so that they will not be tricked later on in life. They should learn mythology, so they can understand references to it in history and the great books. They need to understand the world with a Christian worldview - not just live in a sheltered educational box for they will not be truly educated to reach the world.
- Relax!!!! - I just learned this a few years ago but I see so many others not relaxing and being burdened down by Satan's lies about homeschooling. It isn't hard! They just need to learn to read, write and do math and everything else is gathered really from reading! You can go through and never do one experiment or project and learn what you need to know by just reading a book on it. RELAX!! There are only 4 parts of science and they repeat it every 4 years - so if you miss something the first go round, relax! Same with history. Don't sweat the small stuff, they will eventually get it - trust me!
- Love Teaching Your Child - if you don't do everything as unto God, you will hate homeschooling and your child will pick that up! Don't let Satan have an advantage in your home - do homeschooling as you are doing it for the Lord. Your bad attitudes will be absorbed by your child and they will lose confidence in themselves. Change your attitude and amazingly - everything starts working again! Praise your children more than you point out their mistakes!!
- Pray constantly about your homeschool - whenever you have a problem in homeschooling - stop and pray! If your child is struggling with something - have them stop and pray! Prayer changes things! You either have faith when you pray or you don't. If you don't pray for your homeschool before you begin each day, don't be surprised if you have a hard time. You have not because you didn't ask!