I’d love to offer my thoughts while I am still on summer break and you can take them for what they’re worth. I think one of the things that new people try to do is wrap their mind around the whole thing, but that’s what leads to becoming overwhelmed.
Here are my suggestions. Take the subject of history (start with one subject) and chose one topic, like the Pilgrims, in preparation for Thanksgiving. Buy the $5 book The Landing of the Pilgrims (great Landmark book that is historically accurate and contains implicit Biblical principles). Read aloud a chapter while all your children are sitting comfortably where ever with a snack or drink or anything to settle them.
As you read for about 20 minutes and they listen, make sure to have them monitor their comprehension and explain any words/phrases they don’t understand (keep track of words they don’t know so you can use that for vocabulary lesson later).
Along the way, have them stop you when they hear something about the character of the people, or a description of the setting, or a major event. Tell them in advance that they need to stop you when they hear setting, character, or plot and discuss those things with them.
If possible have a separate piece of paper nearby to document those things in the author’s words. You or an older child can write it down along the way. When you’re done make your way to the table for a 15-30 min session of reasoning and writing. Have younger students copy your notes (only as much as they can handle-one sentence or so) and draw pictures to go along with that, either for setting, character, or plot.
Then, look up and define, on a page entitled “Vocabulary,” a word that they didn’t understand. Have the older students write down (younger do it orally) a sentence using that word. As a further reasoning assignment for the same day or another, have them look up words in a Bible concordance that you encountered in your reading that describes a character or idea, like “care” or “freedom,” and write down 1-3 verses that explain more about what the Bible says about that topic and possible write down a principle or truth from what was learned in that word study.
Also, after reading a certain number of chapters, try to have them deduce various themes, like brotherly love, endurance, wisdom, conscience was sacred, friendship individuality, free enterprise, etc. Have them write the theme in a sentence on a separate paper entitled “Theme.”
Another hands-on way to enrich a study about the Pilgrims would be to go to the library and find books about colonial life. Cook, play games, make things, or dress in that period. You could also draw/color maps or their home in Holland or Cape Code, make a Massachusetts flag, etc. When you are all finished with this study you have a notebook or assignments the children did together with you and a memory of fun ways that you enriched their understanding of the Pilgrims. You could do this with any study: Columbus, G. Washington, Abe Lincoln, or any event centered around their time.
PA is a simple process of researching/reading, reasoning, relating, and recording. It’s not a workbook approach or even a test driven approach. If you together with your children do the 4 R’s in any subject, you’ll be a PA teacher.
If you want more help in the one subject you’re using PA or want to see it modeled, The Noah Plan Lessons, The Mighty Works of God, or a unit from AMO Program can help. These are all wonderful models of PA thinking. Learn from them and then try to do it on your own.
I had full training in the PA and I still take this exact process. Year after year you learn more and more. Each year you’ll be surprised what you’ve learned (not how much you know). Half of what you learn is along side your kids in their school time.
Lastly, when we were getting ready to start teaching the American Revolution with my kids I knew nothing. I first started formulating questions in my mind of things I wanted to know. When did it start? How did it end? How and why did Washington get to lead? Why did it start? Why did the colonists want to become independent? How did they unify themselves? What the big deal about the Boston tea party? How do all the details fit into God’s plan? etc. Pre-thinking is important before studying anything. It prepares your mind and when you do read/research, your questions will begin to be answered and these are things that you’re going to want your children to focus on in their learning because it’s what you learned. Teach them to ask questions of things they might want to know about. Teach them to write down what they learn.
Guest post by Raquel Werk. Raquel is the wife of an attorney, a home school mom of two upper elementary children, and founder of Kahuahana Christian School (started this school year) in Maui, Hawaii. She has a master’s degree in Christian curriculum design from Regent University, written a unit of Bible curriculum for Chrysalis International, and been homeschooling and training teachers in Principle Approach education for 6 years. Raquel blogs at Principled Pacific.