Honestly, I think the two questions I get asked the most are, “How do you know what to teach?” (meaning, is there a set of books or list of topics that your fourth grader HAS to learn this year or he will be BEHIND AND NEVER CATCH UP!!!) and, “How can you teach a subject that you are not an expert in?”
My short answer is, “I learn along with my kids.” I suppose that if I were using a typical public school type curriculum, with text books for every subject, I could read the teacher’s manual every night and prepare a lecture for the next day. Frankly, that would bore me and my kids silly AND would be too much work!
Instead, I use hands-on and literature-based studies. I have used packaged curriculum (Sonlight, Five in a Row, etc.) and I have put together my own unit studies. For example, if we wanted to study Westward Expansion, I would first pull everything off my bookshelves that fit into the study. Then I might go to the library to find more materials. Then we sit down on the couch and read together. I would assign the kids projects to reinforce what we learned—maps to draw or mold from salt-dough, cooking, field trips, reports or creative writing. We read both factual and fiction books about the time period. There is not excessive preparation time for me, nor do I have to be an expert in every topic before we study it. As children grow older, they become more competent at learning on their own.
Also, there are many many texts and curriculums that do an excellent job of teaching directly to the student. Why not learn directly from the experts? My kids actually needed me less as they grew older due to the excellent resources we found.
But what about science labs? We’ve managed just fine using mostly household supplies and easy to obtain equipment for science. I’ve also ordered owl pellets, dissection specimens and equipment and fruit flies/ether/supplies for genetic studies at very reasonable prices.
I’ve homeschooled children through the eighth grade and have never been concerned about being in over my head. My older three children went to public high school, but if I were to homeschool Emily through high school, I would not be concerned about the advanced subjects—we would find good texts and resources and learn together or she would learn on her own.
Some other good options for high school include classes offered for homeschoolers, video and online classes, and dual enrollment at community colleges. There are so many resources these days for homeschoolers that the options are almost limitless!
Read more moms’ ideas for teaching difficult subjects at the TOS CREW blog!