Tips on Teaching 1st-3rd Graders
by Tamara Eaton
If you and your child haven't enjoyed homeschooling lately then it's time for a change! Homeschooling young children (1st-3rd grades) can either be a joy or sheer drudgery--it all depends upon your method and attitude.
Every week I hear from parents who are having problems homeschooling their young children--almost invariably it is because of one of two areas (or sometimes both):
- They're using hyper-structured curriculum and can't keep the focus or interest of the child. (Some children thrive on this but many don't!)
- They've been inconsistent in training and disciplining their child and his whining and disobedience is making homeschooling miserable for everyone. (If you're having this problem, don't miss the "Homeschool Boot Camp: Dealing with Attitudes!" article for Biblical child training tips!)
Thankfully, there are solutions to these problems. Look for ways to make learning fun instead of thinking you have to imitate school at home. Create a natural learning environment where children enjoy learning all the time in a relaxed way.
Here are some suggestions:
- Use curriculum as a tool instead of a dictator, it's not necessary to do all the "busy work" included in most textbooks or workbooks.
- Make "formal" lessons short and sweet.
- Keep instructions brief and give clear examples.
- Don't expect independent work to be done for long periods at a time. It's best to work with or near the child at these ages, keeping an eye on the progress and available if help is needed.
- Young children usually tire quickly of writing; offer to be their "scribe" and write down their stories, letters, and answers to math problems when necessary. Many times their ability to do math or compose stories exceeds their ability to write-- don't hold them back but help them when needed. They can still practice a little every day, just don't burden them with too much, too soon.
- Allow your child to go at his or her own speed--there are enormous differences in the rate of maturity in children under nine years of age. Don't pressure your child but encourage him to do his best without constantly comparing him to his peers.
- Give your child the opportunity to investigate and explore new interests and model a lifestyle of learning before him. Are we interested in learning new things? Chances are our children will be, too!
- Turn off the television. Too much television stifles creativity and takes up valuable time that could be used in pursuing new hobbies and interests. Ever notice how those who say they don't have time to read or explore new interests often find plenty of time for television?
- Enjoy your local public library and build a wonderful home library, too. There are fascinating books with colorful pictures that will make history, geography, science, etc. come alive to your child--learning will be painless as you both enjoy reading aloud together.
We learned the hard way that having "school at home" did not work for our family. (Especially for our younger children.) Many years ago, I ordered a traditional first grade classroom curriculum for my oldest child and we both experienced frustration and boredom. Finally, we put the curriculum up on a shelf and just enjoyed learning together by reading interesting, colorful books from the library and doing a little math and reading instruction on the side. (Covering both math and reading lessons took an hour or less each day.) Guess what? He really enjoyed learning again! And so did I!
This relaxed method of homeschooling sounds frightening to many new homeschoolers because they're afraid that if they don't require much "seat work" or written work, their children won't learn much. They want to do everything "just right" so they try to imitate school at home--not realizing that it's not only unnecessary but also often inefficient and boring. Schools have to do things differently because they're forced to deal "one on twenty-thirty" instead of "one on one", therefore, it's impossible for them to give individual attention to each child and customize their curriculum to fit every need. But we don't have these limitations!
We don't want our children to be turned off from learning at an early age or to think of learning as something that only takes place within the context of "school". We want them to enjoy learning from the start and become a lifetime learner--interested and curious about everything whether it's "school time" or not.
We became even more relaxed with our younger children because we saw that children are naturally curious and want to learn new things--and they learn best when they're interested and ready to learn instead of forced to cover a certain amount of highly structured curriculum daily. Instead of pressuring them, we have tried to make learning enjoyable for them so that they look forward to homeschooling instead of dreading it.
Now this doesn't mean that they are allowed to run the household or that they don't also have plenty of structure and discipline in other areas. They are still expected to have a good attitude and be obedient and respectful when asked to do something--we just make sure that we're using wisdom in how much we require of them so that they are not overwhelmed or turned off by learning.
Next week, I'll share more examples of how we make learning fun for our younger children and give you a "typical week" (if there is such a thing!). I prefer looking at how much our children have learned in a week instead of a day because it presents a more balanced picture of what we accomplished. Some days we do more "school work" than others, but we always enjoy reading together and the children have many educational interests and games that they enjoy playing, too. They are learning new things all the time--what a privilege and joy it is to homeschool them!
"The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice." Proverbs 23:24-25
MY FAVORITE RESOURCES FOR HOMESCHOOLING YOUNGER CHILDREN:
- THE WHOLEHEARTED CHILD by Clay and Sally Clarkson The Clarksons discuss how to create a lifestyle of learning and the importance of discipling our children. Everything from spiritual encouragement to practical ideas on organization. The best book I've seen on homeschooling children in a long time! I recommend it for everyone--both new homeschoolers and veterans.
- Dr. Ruth Beechick's THREE R'S SERIES (Grades K-3) A Strong Start in Language, A Home Start in Reading, An Easy Start in Arithmetic, and a wall chart for teaching phonics and arithmetic. An invaluable, inexpensive guide for new homeschoolers-- filled with practical teaching tips and ideas to make learning enjoyable. Definitely a "must have" for teaching these grades!
These books are available through most homeschooling catalogs, including the online chfweb.com Homeschool bookstore.
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.
[ Please don't forget to include your email address within the body of your message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient email addresses! ]
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."