How to Combine Subjects
Combining subjects can be a most efficient homeschooling technique. Instead of five to eight separate time slots, you can spend bigger blocks of uninterrupted time on one topic while covering most subjects. Here are some ideas.
McMurray says, “the chief use of history is to form moral notions in children.” History's primary purpose is not to pump facts and figures into the child, but to teach morals by example. The study of men is also a study of morals. Each story (each action) demands a moral judgment. Did he do right? Was that the wrong decision? What were the consequences of that action? History teaches what heart-qualities the person had, and inspires the child to similar greatness of character. The study of history can be combined with language arts, fine arts, penmanship, home economics, science, travel, geography, Bible and speech.
- Fine Arts, Penmanship. Read history (or science) while your children are doing penmanship or a detailed art lesson. ~ Borrow art videos and other materials about the period you are studying from your public library, or from the National Gallery of Art. ~ Purchase inexpensive project booklets on different periods of history (Kids Art). ~ While children are working on art projects, read biographies of artists from the period you are studying. ~ Create a time line. Get ends of newsprint rolls from your local newspaper. Draw a wavy horizontal line with a wide marker. Label each hill and valley with a year thirty years apart (1630, 1660, etc.) leaving enough space for the events of those thirty years (about 18-24 inches). Have your children draw a picture of each historical figure or event studied with colored markers, including the date of his or her life, or the date of the event.
- Home Economics. Children can do needlework while you or another child is reading aloud. You can do crafts from the period in history that you are studying.
- Science. You can veer from history into scientific topics or personalities. We have done this during our Renaissance study by reading about the astronomers, da Vinci and Galileo. Your older children could research and write a paper on astronomy or the scientists.
- Travel. Visit historical sites. Have your children journal about what they have learned. Take photographs or do sketches for a scrapbook to be completed at home.
- Geography. Always look up the place that you are learning about on a map or globe.
- Bible. Study Bible history to learn God's will and His ways along with ancient and creation history.
- Language Arts. Read aloud and then dictate some of the more memorable passages. (See “Spelling,” below, for dictation instructions.)
- Speech. Have your older children read history aloud, practicing the speech skills of enunciation, projection, emphasis and pronunciation. ~ Famous speeches or other historical documents (such as the Gettysburg Address) can be memorized. Take several days or even weeks to memorize longer passages. Speech skills can also be practiced reciting memorized Bible verses.
How to Memorize
- Read the complete work together several times.
- Recite the first sentence together several times.
- Add another sentence as soon as the first is committed to memory, always reciting all that is known, from the beginning.
- When you are able to say the entire piece together from memory, start testing your children individually.
- Reading. If you start reading aloud to your children when young, teaching one thing at a time and giving your children plenty of opportunity to experience many good books, spelling will not have to be taught!
- Phonics. If you are going to teach spelling, the perfect time is the same time you teach phonics because phonics rules are spelling rules. A book such as Simply Phonics is ideal because it lists the words in families with like sounds and spellings. During each phonics lesson, encourage your child to pay attention to what letters make up each word, and then afterwards test them orally (or in writing, if they can write) on that day's words.
- Language Arts. Copying from the Bible or classic literature is an excellent way to learn language arts, including spelling. Your student reads the selection and copies it. This is easy on the teacher because the proper grammar forms, punctuation, capitalization and spelling are in the selection. ~ When your children are older, dictate. Let your students spend some time studying the passage. Then read the piece as slowly as necessary for them to write it down. Check their writing for grammar, punctuation and spelling. An older child should check (proofread) and edit their writing first, marking any errors they think they might have. Then you will make a separate list of misspelled words for them to look up and correct. If your children are younger, you can just write the correct spelling for them to learn. Have your student write each misspelled word about ten times each or speak the spelling aloud. Finally, give an oral or written test on these words. If your child needs review, he will misspell the word again. To avoid extra work, he will try harder to spell more words correctly and will either learn the words, or look them up, and learn several this way, too! To discover what grade level your child is at in spelling, you can test occasionally using A Measuring Scale for Ability in Spelling. ~ At least once a week, besides your dictation work, your children should write a story. Make sure it's not too long for your younger students. If you are having them do independent reading, they could write about what they have read. Then go on to correct and make a spelling list according to the directions given above for copying and dictation. It is important that your children learn neatness, so it is best that their papers be done in pencil. Otherwise they will have to recopy.
- Research, Missions. Make your own calendar or plan, listing one country a week. After checking what country is listed on the calendar for that day, find it on the globe and pray for the people there. Have your children do research and report on that country after they point it out on the globe.
- Games. We have used “Where in the World” and “Take Off.”
- Literature. Read books such as Hans Brinker (The Netherlands) or Treasures of the Snow (Switzerland). An event in the news can spark a study on a country or area of the world.
- History. Geography will be related to historical studies. While studying English history we read books about England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Always find the country that you are reading about on a globe.
- Focused Attention. It is important that parents give their children focused attention. This does not always come easily, even for homeschoolers. Math “class,” especially for younger students, is an excellent time for giving this focused attention. Put the baby down for a nap, and send the other children off to work on their own while you spend special time with one of your children. I don't know if I've ever felt closer to our youngest as his smiling brown eyes looked into mine, wondering if his answer was correct. Remember, when it takes a little more time to get them to understand, instead of getting frustrated and short tempered, demonstrate patience and let this be a special time and be sure to praise them when they get it right!
- Speech. Do oral math with your children. Have them speak the problem and solution in complete sentences and with proper diction.
- Family Time. Many of us live in beautiful locations where there are free educational opportunities in abundance! Go outside, open your eyes and see! Get your children sketchbooks. Sit in a secluded spot (one child at a time works best for this) and let the richness of creation pour in. Whenever you go on an outing, have a sketching time as part of that outing. Art school students are never without their sketchbooks!
- Drawing. Sketch or record what you are seeing. We use nature guides to help us identify animals and plants. Check with your state Game and Parks Commission for nature guides for your locality. Our children certainly can identify more than I could when I was their age! This is an example of learning along with your children.
- Literature, Language Arts. Read literary nature books, and have your children keep a nature diary as did the naturalist and writer, John Burroughs.
- Combine vacations with studies by reading about deserts (mountains, the seashore, etc.) before visiting that area and that area's museums.
- Study artists and art history before visiting art museums.
- Study local history and spend a lot of time at local museums.
As you homeschool, you will discover your very own combinations that will save time and make homeschooling easier and more enjoyable!
Andrew and Lorraine Curry have homeschooled their four children since 1989 and have three graduates to date. Lorraine is the author of the best-selling book Easy Homeschooling Techniques and Easy Homeschooling Companion. See free copywork, articles, chapters, and checklists at www.easyhomeschooling.com.