Homeschool an Elephant

How do you homeschool an elephant? Let’s tackle this question.

Why is homeschooling like an elephant? Because education is huge, colossal, and mammoth! It pretty much encompasses anything and everything a person needs to know, doesn’t it?

Specifically, we are going to talk about how homeschooling is like an elephant in:




Now, I know we have this perception that we have encapsulated education into 12-16 years of study, don’t we? But even this seems daunting to use as homeschoolers.

It’s overwhelming to order some preschool flashcards from the same catalog that offers calculus textbooks. We look at the simple addition facts and wonder how we are ever going to get our child to the point they will be able to comprehend higher math.

Or our dear Johnny sits down to write and his lines are all wobbly and we project way into the future and wonder how he will ever be able to fill out a college entrance form…

One of our daughters is extremely enthusiastic. When she had just learned how to walk she would always be leaning forward, because her body could not take her places as quickly as she would like to go.

When it came to learning to read, she did not have the patience to sound out the words, so she would just sound out the first letter and guess the rest (which is partly why I developed my To the Top reading program, which you can access for free).

As she progressed and was learning to write better and do higher math, she would get so frustrated with herself. She wondered why she couldn’t write better or get through her math book more quickly. So, I would ask her, “Honey, how do you eat an elephant?” to which she would reluctantly reply, “One bite at a time.”

And this is what we need to be repeating to ourselves as homeschoolers. We need to be tackling the huge elephant of homeschooling just one little tidbit at a time.

It’s not grueling school sessions that get kids to the top of learning, it’s simple, attentive, gradual lessons on a consistent basis that get us there.

Another one of our daughters, who is extremely bright, wanted to start college at 16. I knew she was an accomplished writer and respectable at math, but I wasn’t sure she had caught enough US history to be able to move on to higher learning. We had covered a lot of different portions of our nation’s history together, but not as a cohesive timeline. So I sat her down and had her give me the basic story of our country, and she did so in a coherent, succinct way. I was surprised, but happy.

She had been able to take all of the bits and pieces we had studied and put them together in a cohesive timeline. This is truly the genius of homeschooling–that our children can take information from a number of different sources, analyze it, and develop an overall picture for themselves.

So, if you have a little person who only scribbles and scratches, don’t despair. Just sit down and do a little scribbling daily. Don’t make it grueling, just keep it light and fun. If you stay consistent, maturity will take over, and the exposure, example, and instructions you give will have an effect, guaranteed!

Homeschooling is also like an elephant in the way we perceive it.

It’s like that folk tale where some blind men come up to an elephant. One man is on the flank of the animal, so he perceives it to be broad and rough. Another man has his hands around the leg, so he reports that the elephant is stout and strong like a tree. Still another man has hold of the elephant’s trunk, so he tells everyone it writhes like a snake. Of course, none of these men can tell what an elephant is like because he cannot see the entire animal.

Homeschoolers can develop a perception of what home education is by what they have become familiar with, and they may insist that the only way to teach one’s children properly is:

By using textbooks, which will best prepare them for college.

By using only real books and living books.

By staying outside most of the day.

By doing the trivium and the lost tools of learning.

By allowing the child to follow his own inclinations.

And on and on.

Each understands a different part, but only a part, and not the whole.

So, in order to give a child an entire education, we need to use the “big picture” view.

If necessary, use novels, but be open to a textbook if it suits. Sometimes you will be outside for long stretches, other times you will be inside. You might learn some Greek and Latin, even study some ancient philosophers, and then read aloud a more modern novel just for fun.

You might spend a month on more structured learning, then take another month off for some delight-directed exploration.

Philosophies and methods combined, it is the forward progress that counts. It is the active interest you show in this progress that will make the difference, and the money, time, and energy you spend will give the example your child will need to continue even when he has left your home. Your actions will speak louder than your words, and your child will see the entire elephant, instead of thinking education is only a leg or a trunk or a tail.

For more on this subject, listen to the podcast at the locations below:

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