You see, much of what you already have round the house can be valuable educational material when home educating young children, although we perhaps don’t see it like that.
Let’s look at Reading and Language. The best way to prepare your child to read is to read to them. To instil in them a pleasure in books, fiction and non-fiction. To enjoy books together. If you don’t have many, libraries are free! Talking about the books, making up stories, playing at ‘phone calls’, reading anything around the house, supermarket, waiting rooms, all develops the skills children need in order to be able to read and use language. This approach is far more effective than forcing laborious reading exercises on them. When they enjoy books they’re going to want to read them.
It’s the same with maths. Mathematical opportunities are all round the house. You can count and sort with all kinds of items from pasta to Lego to socks. (Pairing is a great introduction to times tables!) You can weigh and measure everything. You can keep all your change and get them counting, grouping, adding up, taking away, dividing…it’s endless. You can get them playing with water, using measuring jugs, bottles, looking at quantities on food and drinks packets. It’s fun making coloured bar graphs to record findings. If you use your imagination and integrate maths with everyday life it becomes real and second nature.
And as for science; well, science is there in our lives all the time if we just notice it. If you look in a Key Stage One Science workbook it talks about lots of scientific concepts which you can explore just by living your life; e.g. properties of materials (water’s runny and changes shape, wood is hard, etc); changing states, (freezing, cooking – what happens to an egg? Melting, etc); it talks about nature (so many things to spot and identify just going out for a walk or in the park). Your own bodies are a good starting point, especially the bits inside! By being observant of the world around, by asking why, what or how, you begin to involve the child in the scientific world that is part of our everyday existence. Playing around with stuff teaches children far more, increases their understanding and skills far more, than any workbook.
Then there’s creativity. People tend to think creative activities are not educational. But in fact, they develop many skills valuable for learning. Important hand eye co-ordination needed for writing for example, thinking and problem solving skills needed for maths, construction and manipulative skills, selection and properties of materials, all relevant to science. The more creative activities your child does the more stimulated they are. The more stimulated they are the more their brains are working. And don’t forget exercise; that stimulates brain too!
The beauty of this broad learning approach is that everything is linked to real life therefore making it relevant to the child, rather than being some disassociated subject they don’t understand. Schools are stuck with a rigid curriculum delivered in a rigid and divisive way which neglects to keep kids engaged. With home educating it can be as broad and enjoyable an approach as you like. Conversation can be the most effective teaching tool of all.
So what do you need to start home educating? More than any expensive materials you need a positive and encouraging attitude, a good relationship with your children, and a mind open and willing to see education for what it is; a pleasurable, inspiring and life enhancing, everyday experience.
(More info in my book Learning Without School)