Somewhere along my homeschooling journey, I made a joyful discovery. When my second child was 8 years old she learned to tell time and count money without the use of one single worksheet! It was not intentional, but real life just happened. About the time she would have started learning these things in a workbook, I had baby brother number one, and later, baby brother number two! Real life took a back seat to school books on some days. We operated by necessity a lot of the time, and it turned out to be a blessing! From that day forward, I intentionally learned to think outside the textbook.
Instead of doing math worksheets, she was earning allowance or receiving money in birthday cards or from grandparents. Predictably, she wanted to spend it. I would occasionally instruct her in the different coins, and she would practice. Sometimes we’d pour out a jar of coins and count. Paper money is pretty self-explanatory. So, she quickly learned to know exactly how much money she had in her purse at all times! Level achieved!
As for telling time, she actually had a desire to learn this on her own. With a few basic pointers, and some random “What time is it?” pop quizzes, she caught on quickly. She might stop and think for a few seconds, but she knew the basics (counting by 5s, short hand, long hand, etc.). With just a few minutes per day of checking the clock at various times, she learned to tell time on an analog clock. Level achieved!
Isn’t it simple? I did not need to purchase flash cards, workbooks, or fake paper money and cardboard coins. Why mess with fake manipulatives when the real thing is so effective?
It is my opinion that learning is part of life, and does not all have to be included in “school.” We have been so trained to believe that everything we learn must be a “school subject” and must be taught at a certain grade level with a certain number of workbook pages. I think this is where a lot of stress and fear in homeschooling comes from. But when we allow ourselves to think outside the textbook, to think outside the public school system, we can get creative, we can relax, and we find that some of the things we teach our children are as easy as tying their shoes or folding their laundry. Not everything is school.
So how did this daughter turn out? She purchased her own car (with cash) at the age of 17. By 18 her employer decided to train her in the company’s bookkeeping. I guess you could say I’m pretty pleased. This is the same daughter I taught to read without a curriculum; you can read about that here.
There are many other ways to think outside the textbook. Teach measurements by giving your child a ruler and a measuring tape (get your kids their own measuring tape and you’ll be Mom of the Year) and asking them to measure things in the house and yard; play with measuring cups and spoons in the kitchen and apply their learning in a recipe. Talk about healthy foods when you shop at the store and prepare new recipes; look up the vitamins and minerals in different foods and how they benefit different body systems. Cooking lessons and kitchen safety don’t need a course: they just need a patient mother and a cookbook.
And one of the best ways to teach just about everything: conversation. Talk to your kids about what you are doing, why you do it, and how it is accomplished. Talk to them about everything. Let them ask questions, and take time to patiently answer them. Purva Brown echoes this idea in her post Choose Conversation – Not Curriculum.
Don’t sell yourself short as a teacher! When your children were babies and toddlers, you taught them everything they needed to learn without a school book. You can still teach them so much in the same way! That’s why I stress: think outside the textbook. Let real life be your guide, and theirs. It’s much more fun and interesting. Family bonds are created, thinking skills grow, and the stress of school is greatly diminished!
I’ve written more about learning without textbooks here:
- 10 Ways to Teach Geography Naturally
- Teaching Literature
- Copywork for Language Arts
- Teaching History Without a Curriculum
- Teaching the Bible to Your Children
- 10 Ways to Learn Outside
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.