In our household, we integrate home schooling with life, which means home schooling is life and life is home schooling. We don’t just do school from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon and then do homework at night, five days a week. Our education does not consist only of academic study, which basically uses textbooks to learn, but of life skills. We want to use this time in our lives to become productive people by developing life skills and using opportunities for service.
While we do use a few textbooks, we aren’t completely focused on them. Sometimes we replace a few of the textbooks included in our curriculum with “real books” such as biographies, autobiographies, non-fiction books, or books that have fictional characters put into an accurate historical setting.
Volunteering at an orphanage is one of the many ways we incorporate life skills and service with school. Every other week we go to an orphanage, which has mostly children with special needs. We consider this part of our education because of the practical abilities that we achieve. For instance, we have learned about different handicaps such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome and how to do appropriate therapy with the children who have them. Though we already know how to take care of kids, participating in the orphanage program has given us a chance to practice it more often. During our experience so far we have also learned some things about first aid and preventive care. Some of the most important things we have learned from the orphanage are compassion, being able to know how to react when around people who have special needs and being able to love them. This has so impacted my sister, Grace, that she has a growing desire to become more deeply involved in the orphan outreach and perhaps even to start a similar program at a different orphanage one day, though that would be a few years away from now.
Another important skill to have in China is to be able to speak Chinese. Once a week we have Chinese lessons with my sister-in-law, Christy, for most of the day, in exchange for us being her helpers in areas such as babysitting, cooking, and cleaning. Most of the time when we are at her house for Chinese lessons we try to only speak Chinese to her and she does the same for us. This deal works out quite well for us, because we get to watch her kids, whom we love, and acquire Chinese, all in one.
Furthermore, we have learned how to operate a business of baking and selling muffins. We research and try new recipes, and depending on whether a Chinese or a foreigner is buying the muffins, we have to adjust the sweetness or flavor in the recipes according to the buyer’s taste buds. Because both Grace and I own the business we also have to learn how to work together. When we sell muffins they need to be up to standard, and we have to make sure that we have all the ingredients in the kitchen. For a math project we had to calculate the price of a muffin, by figuring out how much it costs for us to buy the ingredients and use the electricity. Our business improves our baking ability and gives us extra pocket money! If we wanted to expand our business there would be much more for us to learn such as advertising, packaging, and more.
We also consider Home School Meet Ups as part of our schooling experience. Attending the Home School Meet Ups gives us a chance to practice public speaking, so that we won’t be nervous when we get up in front of other people. It also increases our writing and typing skills and through the projects we have learned to make power point presentations. The topics chosen for the Home School Meet Ups are interesting and cause us to research in areas outside of our normal range.
Because we have a lot of fellowship events we often get opportunities to apply the things we have learned and to learn more! Not long ago we had a big event for which we offered to use our baking skills to make hundreds of muffins and cookies, and our childcare abilities to watch the kids who were coming. In these ways we were able to put our expertise to good use by service.
To prepare for large gatherings, we have learned that being organized and having a plan and a timeline are helpful to keep everything on schedule. Cleaning, cooking, and setting up rooms for events now comes easily for us, and we enjoy working together to bless others. Frequently, we’ve had people whom we don’t know come to our house, so we have had to get the hang of starting conversations, reaching out to others, and being friendly, though it can be hard especially if you’re shy! Since we often have people stay at our house we get to exercise hospitality regularly.
These are just a few of the opportunities that have arisen to enrich our learning. Integrating life with home schooling through these methods and others has definitely made our lives more interesting! And we hope God will use these life skills to make us more productive in His service.