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
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
- 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
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
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
© 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.
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."