These three little books was one of my best buys at the start of my homeschool journey when my oldest was starting the Foundation phase. Each of the books helped me to relax and take a more natural less pressured approach to the primary phase’s core skills.
In “A Home start in Reading” the phases of reading namely prereading, beginning reading, blending, decoding and then the fluency stage is explained in detail. The vowel and consonant charts for the English language is also given. One understands then that to learn to read, one must read….there is no other magic formula for reading. She also explains that the reading skill and writing skill grow together and must be encouraged as such. This means that it is a good thing to let your child read and write every day – just a little each day, but every day. Writing can be learned very effectively by copying and later on by dictation. The book also helps one to understand that the Fluency stage is something that will differ for each child individually and cannot be hurried, it can take weeks, months or even years.
In the book “A strong start in language” she helps us moms to know that all over the world children will at times complain about writing, because writing is hard work. She highlights that knowing grammar does not imply good writing, but students who are good writers can learn grammar better than poor writers. Creative writing is encouraged as a child has something to write about, but it is specifically stated that it is not a good idea to require too much original writing too often. Some grade level guidelines are provided (Gr1-3) for language skills. Spelling is also discussed and advice given on how to approach spelling in the primary years.
For me the best thing about “An easy start in arithmetic” was to learn about the modes of learning mathematics – growing from the manipulative mode to mental image mode to symbolic (abstract) mode. One is usually forcing children to ‘do maths’ too quickly in the symbolic mode without a good foundation being laid in the manipulative mode. She strongly advices parents to be more patient with their children and not rush them in this important skill. The good news is that maths is all around us and it is very easy to let a child do manipulative maths in and around the house. Games are also a great easy way to let a child develop his manipulative and later on, symbolic modes. Grade level guidelines are provided for Grades 1 to 3.
Ruth Beechick continues her natural learning philosophy in this book as she guides one to understand that it is not difficult to continue teaching your own child after (s)he can read fluently. As the child is now entering the Information stage of reading, one is advised to provide all sorts of reading experiences – textual reading (material provided in subject areas), imaginational reading (stories, poetry, prose) and functional reading (newspapers, magazines, ads, rules, directions etc.) which include both fiction and whole lot of non-fiction reading. Narration and conversation (with adults) should happen regularly so as to encourage thinking skills to develop. Writing is explained as a clarification of thoughts which is also why writing is effort. It requires thinking and should therefore be encouraged often ! She does however not advice using the typical fill-in-the-blank workbook type of writing but rather learning to write from real good books by copying and dictation. Writing lessons are included in this book and four kinds of writing (describing, narrating, explaining and reasoning) are described and practice exercises given. Chapters on writing mechanics, grammar and spelling are also given. Arithmetic is dealt with quite extensively in a few chapters and Grade level general guidelines are given for arithmetic from grades 4 to 8.
In the chapters on Social Studies and Science, a good case for not using textbooks are given as it usually treats most topics very superficial, and instead of opening children’s minds to the richness of these subject areas and to learn to think, their minds are closed. She specifically states that there is in anyway no agreement to what content should be taught when, so that one can feel comfortable in compiling your own curriculum choices for these subject areas anyway. She explains the different types of curriculum plans and highlights the problems there is with each of them. It was also interesting to read that most successful science students usually followed a hands-on practical approach only supplementing it with a textbook. Real thinking, observation and reasoning skills should be developed when doing science, and not just learning facts to be able to pass a test approach. Finally she highlights the fact that one must also let your children learn about the big ideas that form society’s thinking such as biblical creation vs evolutionism, uniformitarianism vs catastrophism and entropy. It is also necessary to point out to students that mostly all history and science books will have been written with a bias towards some concept, nothing is unbiased. Students should learn to recognize books as such to be able to interpret the information correctly.
Lastly there is a very interesting chapter on why the bible should be included in a curriculum not only for religious purposes but because it is an excellent source of literature and people who know the bible well have a far better understanding of world history and cultures and the relations of nations than those who overlook the bible’s importance. It is also to be noted that history and science taught from an evolutionary point of view tend to disagree with the bible but ironically most archaeological, geological, scientific and even linguistic discoveries tend to uphold the bible history rather than contradict it. She states (and I agree with her) that the message of a Creator God is needed more than ever before a Savior can be preached. Today’s western society is like the Greeks of old and sadly most Christians do not seem to understand how fundamental the creation-evolution issue is. It is necessary to educate ourselves about this issue and teach it to our children as they grow up in a society more and more saturated with an anti-God message. By teaching your children at home you are helping the Message to spread.
In this book Ruth Beechick focuses one’s attention back to the bible and specifically how content subjects (such as Social studies and Science) can be brought back to closely relate to the bible in contrast to what is done in public (and even private Christian) schools where the content subjects are pulled apart from the bible. “It banishes every thought of God working in the world or of God making the world.” The first few chapters provide an overview of curriculum areas from a biblical perspective to be better able to choose curriculum material. In the content subject chapters Beechick highlights mistakes made in textbooks in order to fit political correctness or what the committee deemed necessary at the point of decision.
She encourages all Christian homeschoolers to take a definite stance on the creation vs evolution debate – with enough reading and discussion being done. Today there is a lot of creation material available which can lead one through the maze of issues one has to deal with. Learning about biblical creation is also a good view of learning about evolution since it almost always explains the evolution side as well whereas public school textbook usually present only the onesided evolution theory. Evolution is so commonly presented as ‘factual science’ whereas in truth there is not one shred of evidence anywhere for either biological or botanical evolution – therefore not being real science at all. And all the books fail to mention that it is therefore only speculation, theory and belief at best.
Another important aspect to give attention to in your homeschool is to educate your children on the worldviews apparent in society today – humanism, secularism, Islam, New Age, antitheism etc. These are all big issues that one needs to address as children will be faced with these. A chapter on thinking skills reminds us to develop that skill in our children by discussion and having us think about things more, and not rely on some curriculum to do that for us. Included in the book are a few chapters in language development (reading, grammar, writing) and a useful chapter on study skills. A chapter on beginning homeschooling with young children is very useful for parents with small children already too concerned with ‘getting a curriculum’. And lastly a very useful chapter on various curriculum materials out there in the homeschool environment and her opinion on how to view that. She strongly advises against getting too much curriculum too soon and reminds us that materials are much less important to our success in homeschooling than we think – they do not make or break your homeschool !
This book is a must read for all serious believing Christian homeschoolers. Get this book and be informed.
These books are also available from Oikos Ministries in SA
TO THE POINT ezine - quarterly newsletter
Receive this FREE ebook "HAPPY HOMES" (in Eng) or "GELUKKIGE HUISE" (in Afr)when you subscribe!
Sheri says "I just wanted to say that i went onto your website and i have found that this is "THE" best one that i have seen, we have just started homeschooling and you have helped me alot!!!! Thank you so much for all the emails and info and support. May God Bless you and your family tremendously!!!!!"
Mathilda says "Just a great Thank you! as I read you are acknowledging what the Holy Spirit states and my spirit feels. thank you for adding to our "life in abundance"".
Ronelle sê "Hallo Willemien Baie dankie vir jou puik webwerf asook jou "snippets". Ek geniet beide baie!"
Elizna epos "Dankie Willemien, baie dankie!! Dis presies wat ek nodig het in hierdie seisoen."