Unschooling Rules #2: Focus on the three Rs

This is a series of posts discussing the book Unschooling Rules by Craig Aldrich.  I wanted to share with you just a few of the 55 rules he listed, and my take on how we could use them to be better homeschool teachers.

From Unschooling Rules by Craig Aldrich

Focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.

Take away:  As you are planning your shorter school day, focus on the three things that are the most valuable and useful for everyday adult life.

Mr. Aldrich states that these subjects were considered the basics by our ancestors for a reason.  They are the subjects which are children will use every day for the rest of their lives.  I would further his statement by stating that as parents are starting with preschoolers, focus just on one:  reading.  Once a child can read well, he can teach himself anything he wants to know.  Schedule time for reading in two different areas:

  • Child learning to read or reading aloud.  This may include workbooks (I loved Explode the Code) or simple readers (like Bob books.)
  • Parents reading aloud to children. This is the most important because without a desire to enter the world of books, the child will not make the effort to learn to read.  That desire comes from the realization that what is in a book is valuable: for entertainment or education.  Parents should read both fiction and nonfiction to their child at levels far more advanced than the child’s reading level.

After reading, writing follows naturally.  A child has a natural desire to “draw” letters.  As a parent provides opportunity for practice:  making lists, writing notes, and perhaps art projects that convey information (science posters, anyone?) writing can evolve naturally from a child’s reading experience.  A child who is read to and reads often will naturally desire to communicate with others in lasting, written form.

Math also begins naturally for a young child, and it is that math that we learn at a young age that is the most valuable to an adult.  I also believe that while using manipulatives is important to teach concepts, learning to do what the Saxon books calls “mental math” — use basic math inside their heads rather than on paper– is a very important skill that parents should reinforce nearly daily.  This skill will serve them well later in life when they are staying inside a grocery budget, checking a bill before paying, and even estimating gas mileage for a car.  When you don’t need an exact number, that kind of mental calculator is very valuable.

What if you don’t have time to study anything else after you’ve studied the three R’s?  Don’t sweat it.  Soon, your child will be an excellent reader, and you can use some of his reading time to read science or history.  Or, choose those type of books for your read aloud.  Other knowledge is picked up easily by learners, which is what you are creating.

Are these subjects the main focus of your homeschool?  What subjects do you consider vital?  Does it change as children mature?  Please leave me a comment below.

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