Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study.
In our twenty-three years of homeschooling, our children have benefited from activities rooted in just about every educational methodology.
As beneficial and pleasurable as these experiences have been, the greatest rewards in retention and relationship have come from incorporating life moments into our days together; discovering God’s creation, serving the needs of others, and engaging in conversations.
In the younger years, we:
- Watch busy ants carry food to their hills, commenting on their phenomenal strength and work ethic.
- Till a small garden and sow seeds, watering and weeding with hopes to enjoy the abundant harvest, the fruits of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
- Build a birdhouse, hanging it in a nearby tree and observing the types of birds that enjoy the shelter.
- Weed the flower bed, discussing root systems and parts of the plant.
- Pull out a blanket after the sun goes down and gaze upward, identifying constellations, studying the night sky.
- Study and sketch the moon each night, pondering its changes.
- Solve a jigsaw puzzle or play a game, building critical thinking and problem solving skills.
- Sing together, experimenting with high and low pitches and encouraging vocal giftedness.
- Sort the laundry, learning the difference between lights and darks while engaging in conversation.
- Tidy the house, encouraging young helpers to be a part of the family team, doing what they are able.
- Peel carrots together, strengthening small motor skills while discussing life’s profound questions, like why are bats nocturnal.
- Make lunch together, slicing bread into half-inch slices and cutting sandwiches into halves and quarters.
- Make lemon meringue pie, marveling at how the egg whites change and stiffen.
- Slice and quarter lemons, stirring in one-half a cup of sugar and filling a pitcher with water to make lemonade.
- Cuddle on the couch, reading page after page, book after book, traveling to unknown places, meeting extraordinary people.
- Look through family photo albums, recalling favorite memories and sharing family history.
- Invite people of varying backgrounds, cultures, and careers into your home, broadening our children’s understanding of the world.
- Make homemade holiday and birthday cards, sending greetings to those who might need extra cheer.
During the pre-teen, teen and young adult years, we:
- Discuss theologies, philosophies, and belief systems, expanding our young adult's understanding of how people think and apply knowledge, while building and refreshing our own knowledge base.
- Learn with our young adults, discerning when to encourage independent study and when to be involved.
- Embrace our young adult's talents, giftedness, or special interests, offering to help in the discovery and research process.
- Start a sewing project, learning and creating alongside, shoulder to shoulder.
- Sweat with our teens, practicing sports and fitness skills, caring for their physical health.
- Walk briskly around the neighborhood, praying for the neighbors while setting a foundation for life fitness.
- Complete a task together (cleaning a bedroom, washing a car, mowing the yard), lightening the load of doing it alone and engaging in conversation which may not happen otherwise.
- Take our teens on dates (clothes shopping, tea rooms, book cafés, or sports stores), enjoying our alone time together away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
- Read books together, sharing feelings and insights.
- Sit with our young adults, engaging in conversation, helping them sort through challenges, uncertainties, and frustrations.
- Strive to be quick to listen, asking questions that help our young adults move through difficult circumstances or relational snags using problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
- Relax together, watching a movie or discussing a recently read book.
- Serve at a local shelter, mission, or children’s home, blessing those who need an extra dose of love while encouraging one another to care for the least served.
- Offer childcare for single moms or moms on bed rest, meeting her practical needs.
- Go on a mission trips together, experiencing new cultures and serving people whose existence matters despite difficult circumstances.
As our children move to adulthood and away from home, I often ask what mattered most in their learning and living years at home. By far, the experiences which have impacted them most, shaped their being, are the experiences which involved the real and relational.
As you move about your day today, embrace the real and relational. Those moments matter and they will impact your family for years to come.