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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lesson Planner: Teaching Life Skills

I write a recurring column in The Old Schoolhouse magazine called The Lesson Planner. Just in case you missed them, I've decided to post them from time-to-time...Blessings from Ohio...Kim<><

Teaching Life Skills in our "Real World" Homeschools ~

One of my pet peeves – and I’m sure yours, too – is when someone makes the comment that homeschoolers do not live in the “Real World.” If those people only knew how silly that remark made them look to homeschoolers, I’m sure they wouldn’t make it anymore. However, as I have been a county coordinator here in Ohio for many years I HAVE noticed something. In years past, homeschoolers have been so eager to prove nay-sayers wrong that some of us have concentrated a little too hard on academics. Now don’t get me wrong, homeschoolers must and DO receive a top-notch education, academically…but…I have witnessed a few homeschool grads who made all the grades but couldn’t even boil an egg! How would they function in the everyday world? We didn’t want that for our children.

We are very eclectic homeschoolers, but I have to say that one of our favorite educational methods is the Unit Study. We’ve even written several of our own. But I needed some serious help in gathering information and research for many of the everyday things that come across our lives – things that come up that you never think of. For example: Everyone has been to a funeral, right? But how many people have actually had to plan one? You would be surprise at how few. Unfortunately, my husband and I were forced into this reality one sad day when our oldest child died of SIDS when she was three months old. We were faced with all the hard, must-be-quickly-decided-upon, costly decisions that are involved in funeral arrangements. We were just kids, ourselves. Life – and death – had hit us full-force in our faces and we didn’t want that happening to our children/teens. Life’s decisions aren’t always fun and easy, even though certain life experiences must be lived out to be fully understood, the mystery and scariness can be somewhat abated by knowing what to expect.

Now, we wanted to know, where can we find resources that truly teach about real life?
Let me show you…

Most Unit Studies are made to be used for a week, a month, maybe even a year. And they are great! But I have found two incredible life skills Unit Studies that can take our children through anywhere from four years to seven years! Of course, like all homeschool materials, we are not bound by the books and we also may pick and choose what we will use and when we will use it.

These unit studies have greatly helped me to “wrangle” the teaching and introduction of life skills and needed life knowledge. Having all girls, I will be telling you about two studies made specifically for girls, but please note that there ARE counter-parts for boys!

Enter Far Above Rubies (FAR) written by Lauren and Lynda Coats. (The boy’s version is Blessed is the Man. This can also be used simultaneously with FAR.) This brave endeavor was created to be all you need for FOUR YEARS! All the way through high school. Granted, if you want to dive deeper into upper math or sciences you will need other texts – remember, this unit is about LIFE; not everyone uses calculus in every-day living. Suggestions for higher learning can be found in the FAR Appendix. [Up-date: Since I wrote this article, FAR now comes in a CDRom - as you can see in this photo! This reduces cost & you merely print off what you NEED!]

If you specifically follow their guide, you will travel through 20 units that each cover lessons under the subjects of: Bible and Christian Character, Cultural Studies, Reading and Literature, Composition, Math and Personal Finance, Science, Health and Physical Fitness, Practical Arts (Home Ec in disguise), and Decorative and Performing Arts – all based upon Proverbs 31:10-31 – “A virtuous wife, who can find? Her value is far above rubies…” [KJV]

The authors have written very detailed and descriptive Guidelines beginning with their reasons for writing such a tome, bios of the authors and the philosophies behind FAR; a few being: #1) God created each of us as individuals, #3) Salvation is in the blood of Jesus Christ and in no other, #5) God gave each child to specific parents for a reason, #7) ALL education is religious, #9) Teaching should be done in a natural way, #12) The purpose of teaching and parenting is to work ourselves out of a job (I like that one!).

FAR also covers the four different learning styles and gives us questions to ponder so that WE can better serve our children. They also explain their “Six R’s of Education” – Reading, (w)riting, (a)rithmetic, research, responsibility and righteousness. Be sure to read their suggested instructions for using FAR as there are codes to follow and understand. But, again, these are guidelines and suggestions – I do not advocate becoming a slave to the order of ANY book, text or curriculum. This is YOUR school!

You will find suggestions on record keeping, transcripts and other final records, and Using Credits for Graduation which will come in handy and may give you great peace of mind in keeping orderly accounts of what has been studied in the high school years. Also included are planner pages, goal planning check list, a high school cumulative record and even report card page – all ready to be copied at your convenience. You will also find a beneficial list of materials and suggested items. Most can be found in a local library if you don’t have them in your home library.

Other learning tools the authors suggest is the making and using of Timelines and Mindmapping. Learning to use these aids helps students keep their thoughts contained onto on chart or paper.

Here’s How…

Now, let’s get into some meat, shall we?

Each of the 20 units is not only based on a segment of Proverbs 31:10-31, but is also divided into “Mini-Units.” Here’s what I mean:

Unit 15
Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
Prov. 31:25

A quick glance at the unit Overview will lead you to the titles of the mini-units with a brief description. For instance, Unit 15’s mini-units will deal with:
A. Dignity and Strength in all Circumstances
B. The Family Cares for its Own
C. Prophecies of the Future

A slice of each of the above mentioned mini-units will be covered under the earlier mentioned subjects (Bible and Christian Character, etc.). And you will NOT lack for anything to cover! If you decided to try to do all activities suggested, you may even be using this volume for MORE than seven years!

The Dilemma…

Initially, when I imagined the “perfect” unit study to help me teach Life Skills to my daughters, I had in mind something with more hands-on time. FAR is an excellent resource and couldn’t have been better put together…but…it is nearly all research and reading. Very little actual hands-on for what I had in mind. What to do?

Once again, I set out and looked through all of my catalogues, searched the internet and bugged my friends who have a similar educational philosophy. A resource that kept popping up was Training Our Daughters to be Keepers at Home [TOD]. For a little while there was a problem, the first publication of TOD was a multi-volume, EXPENSIVE, resource. As I did some more probing, I discovered that Ann Ward (Smiling Hearts Press) had done an ingenious thing! She had taken ALL of the material from TOD and put it onto a CDRom! This not only knocked down the cost of the product but now, as the user, we can simply copy off the portions that we need/want and create our own Life Skills notebook! What an incredible idea! I, for one, couldn’t have been more grateful!

Now, as FAR is a four-year Life Skills Unit Study, Training Our Daughters is a seven-year Life Skills Unit Study! What FAR is in research, TOD is in hands-on! Mrs. Ward has generously laid out the framework for all seven years, along with the anticipated number of weeks involved in each course of study – each year is about 36 weeks. Again, remember – this is YOUR school, YOUR study and YOUR children – YOU are in charge of how you use this or any other curriculum.

Ann Ward has given a summary of each project by category, unit and year. For instance: Each year covers Godly Womanhood, Sewing, Cooking, Gardening, Knitting and other home arts and is expanded and further explored each year. This can be a great asset to a family who has already mastered some of the categories offered as you can then move on to the level that best challenges your students. Through the years you will also cover such womanly life skills as Care for Children and the Elderly, Care for the Sick and Injured, Hospitality, Card Making, Family Finances, Raising Animals, Soap and Candle-making, Childbearing, Women’s Health Issues and Home Business, among others.

As this Unit Study is SO hands-on, you will find very thorough directions – many with pictures – to teach some of the skills with. So, even if you don’t knit, you may still successfully get your daughter who has always wanted to learn to knit off on the right foot, simply by following the directions!

Let me tell you what we have done…

Our family has combined these two great Unit Studies! And what has come out of it has been large notebooks – one for each of our daughters – FULL of basic and necessary Life Skills. As we have been learning, we have been collecting our information in those notebooks. Our daughters will take these books with them throughout their lives to refer to time and time again. These books contain directions for knitting, cooking (we have added all sorts of great recipes – both those suggested in the study and our own family favorites!), child care, elderly care, funeral arrangements, how to recognize good gem stones, home remedies, basic family medical care, stamping and card making, marriage and courtship…yep, they’re BIG notebooks! But just think of the treasure of skills and knowledge they now have that will even be a benefit to their families.

Teaching life skills is teaching LIFE. It’s multi-generational and so needed.

Honorable Mention…

I can’t let you go without mentioning another valuable resource. How many of you had a mom or grandma who kept a book chock-full of her favorite recipes, cleaning know-how, patterns, family records – Grandma’s “Go To” book?

Martha Greene has put together just such a book! Treasury of Vintage Homekeeping Skills has been put together with Grandma’s Go To Book in mind. If you would like to start the tradition of a Life Skills notebook for your children or teens – boys, too! – this would be a great place to start and then to add to.

Martha has included chapters covering: Homekeeping, Hospitality, Home Duties, First Aid in the Home, Gardening, Cooking & Baking, Reserves for the Family, Handiwork, Business of the Home and Family Records. You can even design your own family crest and family creed!

I was SO excited when I found out about this book! THIS was exactly what I had in mind when we began our own Life Skills notebooks! Martha has done such a great job. You just know that this was a labor of love; a labor of her heart. As it should have been and as YOURS will be.

All Good Things…

Life Skills is such an important lesson to teach our children. It’s an on-going, never-ending School of Life. While academics ARE important, we must not forget to include the things that our children will need their whole lives through. What good are the best academics if they can’t help you change the oil in your car? A well-rounded education makes for a well-rounded person – ready to take life by the horns and hang on for the ride!


~ Far Above Rubies:
http://www.farandblessed.com/FAR.shtml or through TOS contributor, the Urban Homemaker, at http://www.urbanhomemaker.com.
~ Training Our Daughters to be Keepers at Home: Smiling Heart Press, P.O. Box 130, Imbler, OR, 97841 or through the Urban Homemaker.
~ Treasury of Vintage Homekeeping Skills:
http://www.marmeeskitchen.com. ~ Questions? Contact Kim Wolf at: http://marmeespantry.blogspot.com

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog and I am glad you "reprinted or rereleased" this article. It was great! Actually, Fridays are my favorite Homeschool days..no bookwork but we concentrate on Home Ec. Washing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, vacumming, dusting, etc. I appreciate your posts and knowledge. Hope it warms up there soon!


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