Back when I was first considering homeschooling, one of the most appealing aspects was the opportunity it would give me to fill in the gaps in my own education. Unlike classroom teaching where I’d repeat one or two subjects every year, in my home classroom I’d move through the entire curriculum with my children. Now I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about revisiting geometry, but world history, great books, the catechism…that was right up my alley.
In practice, however, I can get so occupied with daily chores, kids’ learning styles, and educational methods, that it’s easy to let my intellectual life take a back seat, while I try to figure out how to fit housework and errands into an already too-full day.
Still, I find I’m a happier mom when I give myself time to read and think about a few interesting ideas in fields other than child development or education. Whenever my children complain about school, I remind them that I would love to be able to study and read all day! My words make more sense to them if they actually see me doing some studying myself.
A wonderful aspect of staying home with your children is the opportunity to study whatever you want to, and at your own pace. If you are homeschooling, you already have study built into the rhythm of your day. You can schedule a time of day when everyone who can reads silently (and everyone who can’t has to take a nap or play quietly elsewhere) and read a great book yourself.
Here are a few ideas for keeping your mind active while also teaching your children at home:
1. Each school year, read a few classic books you’ve never read before from the historical time period your children are studying.
Ancient times: Read some of the Greek tragedies, or listen to an audio of Homer’s Odyssey. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a fascinating historical novel set in Old Testament times.
Medieval: Read some of the medieval mystery plays (find them online or at the library). These dramatic representations of biblical stories were the beginning of English drama. Listen to an audio of Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales or read an edition in modern English.
Shakespeare: read a plot summary first, then watch a film version, then read the play.
2. Pick a great author like Chesterton or Jane Austen and decide to read all of his/her major works over a period of 2 or 3 years.
3. Pick a genre (drama, the novel, autobiography) and read examples from its beginning to modern times. Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well-Educated Mind lists great books by genre.
4. Pick a theme (religious conversion, childbirth, Judaism) and follow it through literature from ancient to modern times. You might have to do some research on this one, but if the topic interests you, go for it.
One note: Most of us just can’t pick up Homer or Milton and dive right in. Even if you read them in college, you probably need a refresher in what these authors were trying to say and why they wrote the way they did (at least I do!). Enroll yourself in the University of Google and let SparkNotes be your professor.
I try to do #1 from my list above (read classics from the time period the kids are studying). Last year, when we were learning early Church history, I picked up Augustine’s Confessions and tried to read it. I could not get into it and felt like my brain just wasn’t up to the task of serious reading anymore. Since then, I’ve found there are so many free resources and even entire college courses available online that that I’m sure would have helped me understand what I was reading.
Finally, the last great advantage of studying on your own is that if you don’t like what you are studying, there’s nothing to keep you from stopping it and starting something else.