Deciding What to Teach

Several months ago, a reader asked me “How do you decide what to teach your kids?”

Today I answer that question over at Simple Homeschool.

This was a hard question to answer. Some people want defined and fixed parameters about what you need to teach children to give them a "good" home education. I am not one of those people. Which you probably already know. 

I have never read any "what your child should learn in grade 1" type homeschooling guide books. How do those people know what my child needs to know when they are six, nine or seventeen? They don't know our family, our circumstances or more importantly, the unique person that is my child. What if my child has no interest in learning the "things" they recommend teaching? What if I have no interest in it?

So, you won't find any set "this is what you should teach your child" message coming from me. But we have used the guidelines I laid out at Simple Homeschool in determining what to teach our children. 

I feel this approach to education brings both a lot of freedom and responsibility. As parents it requires us to think about our family's goals and be intentional in living them. It demands that I come to terms with who I am and acknowledge what inspires me. And it behooves (I love using that word) me to intimately know these children God has entrusted to us. To prayerfully consider their purpose and their gifts and do my best to equip them for their future. 

On a related note I have found this book, Fundamentals of Home-Schooling: Notes on Successful Family Living, to be helpful on our homeschooling journey. It does not answer the question "what should I teach my child?" but gives lots and lots of practical tips and inspiration for family based, interest-led learning. Currently I am mining the Exploring Writing section for ideas I can use with Celine.

I plan to write a few homeschooling related posts in the coming months and of course my regular monthly posts at Simple Homeschool. Are there any questions you'd like me to answer?

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

Filed Under

« How to Freeze Tomatoes ~ or Preserving made Easy
Words I Need to Read »
  • Lois H.

    Lois H. on Sept. 16, 2010, 12:47 a.m.

    I am not a homeschool mom, but I would love ideas of ways to incorporate more learning in every day activities - ways I can consciously teach my kids while making it fun and interesting. They do enough "book learnin'" at school, but I want to keep them curious, challenged, and passionate about learning outside of school.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2010, 1:44 a.m.

      Hum... I see all of life as learning and everything my kids do throughout the day as learning, whether it is considered schoolwork or not. They read, play, go outside, hang out with us, cook, learn to get along with siblings etc...  I don't necessarily try and make these activities fun, some are, some aren't but all of it is learning. 

      Can I ask a question? Do you watch TV? If so, I recommend not. Part of the reason my kiddos are so creatively and positively engaged most of the time is because there is no other option for how to spend the time.

      I also keep a lot of crafty, hands on materials around the house. These are not crafts I do with the kids per se, (though sometimes I do and because I did a lot more of this when they were younger they've learned a few crafty skills along the way) but materials they can access and use.

      I also wonder how can people not be passionate about learning? What else is there to do? (see comment below).

      Hobbies, listening to music, physical activity, outdoors, arts & crafts, cooking, etc... all of this is learning of some form.

      Are you curious, challenged and passionate about your own learning? Be a model for them.

      Read, read, read. If you have reluctant readers read to them. There is a whole world out there at our fingertips if we just open up books and read about it. My children get so excited and interested in things they've read or that I've read to them.

      Some children because of their schooling experience may be turned off learning just for the fun of it. When people are expected to learn something on someone else timetable and according to someone else's vision (like a state curriculum) they can come to see learning as a required activity. Something you do just to get good grades and then you can go back to "real life". This is really sad and I'm not sure how to remedy a situation like this while remaining in a school system.

      I don't know if I answered your question at all. Greater minds than mine have tackled this question and I've seen book titles along these lines at the library but can't recall any specific ones right now.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2010, 1:52 p.m.

      Lois, I feel I owe you an apology. I'm actually not very good some days at expressing my thoughts in a constructive, helpful and encouraging way. Just ask my family. They are used to my blunt manner but also experience all the loving I regularly heap on them to know my intentions are never to be un-kind.

      That part of my comment above that I struck out (I'm keeping it in because it was published originally and you probably read it by now) I should never have written and published. You asked an honest question and I feel those flippant sentences on my part dimished the sincerity of your question. Please forgive me.

      I've been thinking about this all night and had my daughter read my comment this morning to give me her feedback and she agreed, those sentences seem inappropriate. So, so sorry.

      What I meant to say is this - I've never had to encourage my children much to embrace learning and be curious. They just are. It's hard for me to imagine this being any other way. Maybe it's because there is no forced learning in our house, maybe it's because they are especially precocious this way I don't know. I wish I could give you more helpful constructive ideas.

      When I went to the goodreads link of the book I recommended I saw that some people think it's good even for families with kids in school. I think this is true. The book talks about family learning in general, not schooling methods so much, so if you can find it at your library it might give you some ideas.

      Also, in discussing this with my children my son's advice is to "teach your kids the things they want to learn (smile) and that way they'll be interested in it". So maybe use that as a starting point? What are your kid's naturally interested in - the outdoors? physical activity? pets? Use that as a spring board for afterschool meaningful learning.

      I hope this has been a bit more constructive and encouraging. I need to better learn how to reign in my thoughts sometimes.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 5, 2010, 1:07 p.m.

      This article by Jena at Simple Homeschool, Motivating Learners in Your Homeschool, is just an excellent answer to that question Lois. It's directed to homeschoolers specifically but I think the general ideas could be applied to your situation as well.


  • Kelly

    Kelly on Sept. 20, 2010, 7:55 p.m.

    Yes! I always love the chance to ask questions! (Of course I don't expect you to answer them if it doesn't call to you...) I'm a homeschooling mama but my girls are only 3.5 years and 12 months. So we're at the beginning...and I'm so excited about it all. But my questions are, what did interest-led learning look like for you at this age? How did you balance following your child's lead with doing the things that matter to you and also managing the household? I had thought of myself as an "unschooler" and my daughter is full of life and energy and creativity and ideas, but I'm finding that I need our family life to have more structure, and more time limits on following my daughter's lead on projects , and also more time limits on how often I take us out on playdates (am I making any sense?). Also, a question about your current homeschooling...what sorts of projects happen during "project" time, what is your involvement in them, and what are your kids up to when you are doing your own projects (like bill paying, writing time, etc.) Thanks! -Kelly


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.