Monday, March 14, 2016

Homeschool Thoughts: On Teaching a Subject You Don't Know

Last summer, I declared that we would have a summer homeschool camp.  I wanted to do something to keep us involved in learning over the summer, and I wanted it to be fun.  In order to ensure that the kids bought into the idea, I decided to let them pick the theme for our summer camp.

They decided that they wanted to do a foreign language summer camp.  Sounded awesome to me.  I have been teaching them Spanish since day one.

What languages were they interested in learning?  Latin and Greek, of course.

Do I speak Latin or Greek?  Know how to read Latin or Greek?  Nope.  But I said yes anyways.  And now, almost a year later, we have completed our first Greek course and are nearing the end of our first Latin book.

I have some thoughts and ideas about teaching your kids a subject that you don't know yourself.  Here they are, in no particular order:

It is possible to learn along with your kids.  This is great because it models for your children the way that people learn things.  It also demonstrates to your kids that learning should never stop, even after you finish school.  Mommy is learning Latin just for the fun of it?  So am I!  It's a bonding thing.

If you aren't comfortable learning along with your kids, you can just stay one step ahead of them.  This is the method that I am (accidentally) using in teaching Connor how to write his own apps for the Apple store (which is what he is really interested in doing right now).  I didn't really intend for it to happen this way.  I am very comfortable with diving right in and learning along with him.  But, one night I got really interested, and I watched several lessons and progressed past him, all while he was in bed.  I couldn't help myself.  (It turns out that I am also really interested in writing Apple apps.)  Even though I don't usually operate this way, it is possible to teach the lesson you just learned.

Anytime you don't have the answer, you can look it up together.  Again, this demonstrates that whole learning-never-stops idea.  It also takes a lot of pressure off of little perfectionists, because it proves that no one has to know every little detail, as long as they know where to look when they need to figure it out.  Teaching your kids how to do research using the internet, dictionary, encyclopedia, or going on a trip to the library is very valuable.  Making it an automatic reflex whenever a question arises ensures that they will never be content to let something they don't know just slip by.

For instance, today we found out that the first Siamese cat in the United States was a gift to President Rutherford B. Hayes' wife from the King of Siam.  (Thank you, Presidential Pets Coloring Book.)  Connor asked what was special about a Siamese cat.  So, I got the "S" encyclopedia out and we looked it up.  Then, he wanted to know about Siam, which is now known as Thailand, and that lead us to the "T" encyclopedia so that we could look that up.  The whole exercise took less than 5 minutes, but I feel like it was more memorable and that he has a better understanding of the world just because we looked into a book.

You can get someone else to teach them.  When Lex said that he wanted to learn to play the violin, I never once thought about being the one to teach him.  I have never played a stringed instrument, and I didn't really want to be the one to teach him.  He is taking lessons in a small group setting with a couple of other kids, and he loves his violin teacher.  Also, I really enjoy asking him to teach me what he learned in his violin class each week.  So, even though I am not teaching him, I am still learning along with him.  

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