Homeschooler Bonnie Landry told a Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool conference audience to prepare their lessons the night before.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Homeschooler Bonnie Landry told a Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool conference audience to prepare their lessons the night before.

March 31, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

For 22 years, homeschooling has been a way of life for Bonnie Landry in the little hamlet of Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. With seven children, aged seven to 26, she still has a few more years to go.

Landry presents several homeschooling workshops every year, and was a speaker at the Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference, March 13-15 at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton. The conference, attended by about 175 homeschooling parents, was called Why on Earth Would You Home School?

For Landry, the answer to that question is simple: homeschooling allows her to focus on what really matters. What matters most is her family. Faith, integrity, honesty and empathy are the values that homeschooling allows her to teach her children firsthand.

She gave a talk March 14 on teaching Canadian history via historical fiction. She has written a book on the subject, Great Books to Study Canadian History.

She incorporates reading into her family's daily routine. She reads to her children during breakfast. Throughout the morning, each child gets individual attention, since they vary in age. Again at lunch she reads to them as a group.

"There's a very predictable and comfortable flow to our day: eat, read, study, tidy up, eat, read, study, tidy up," said Landry, knowing there are "anchor points" to her family's typical day, in which they know what to do at particular times.

A key point in her talk was that parents should prepare school lessons the night before, but should be open to impulsive changes. For instance, one evening she prepared a lesson on reproduction, using the chicken and the egg as an example.

But the next day, her daughter started asking unrelated questions about how birds build their nests. Instead of being agitated or discouraging her daughter's wonder, together they looked up information about nests.

GO WITH THE FLOW

"What I learned in that lesson was that I can prep to teach her something, but we can progress a lot further if I prep to learn alongside her and being prepared for whatever comes up," said Landry, encouraging an unplanned approach to learning.

In fact, a simple children's storybook like Dr. Seuss' Are You My Mother? can lead to teachable moments on such varied topics as animals, food sources, habitats, trees, geography, climate, vehicles, machinery, motherhood, communication, and many others.

As her children started reading more sophisticated novels, this became the basis for learning, and each book became its own tool for study. In their later grades, they would read a whole series of books to study a historical era.

By reading Canadian historical novels, children can learn about writers, artists, athletes, prime ministers and other prominent Canadians.

Through these novels they learn about a time period or setting, physical geography, influential people, religious thought, politics, social influences, transportation, communication, diet, agriculture, recreation and family life. There is an opportunity for learning everything, from new vocabulary to science.

"Reading aloud together is vital to the family. I think reading together is almost as important as the family meal. Reading together serves a common purpose, taking us all on the same trip together," said Landry.

All of the diverse interests of her family come together through the same book. Reading a book on Vikings, the girls might be intrigued by the clothes they wore while the boys might be more interested in their weapons.

"We must read together because we are all busy together, and reading is what pulls us together and helps make us a family," she said.

To aid with learning, she always keeps maps on the walls of her home. She has a map of Vancouver Island and a map of Canada, and often a map of whatever country they are studying. She also keeps a globe and world atlas handy.

"What happens when you have these tools around for your kids to use, they pick up research skills and reference skills just like reading," said Landry.

She has developed two techniques for teaching her children to learn new things that are required for their education. One she calls salting the oats. This involves planning an amazing field trip, theatrical play or IMAX production that might pique their interest in a subject they must learn more about.

MAKE IT REAL

"Kids will almost always get caught up in something that is very tangible and visible to them. Even to teach them about the Gold Rush, you could take them to a goldsmith, and that would be a very fascinating thing for them to do, even if they're not otherwise interested in the Gold Rush," said Landry.

Her second technique is flooding, which involves buying every book and resource she can find on a given topic they're studying and placing them all throughout the house. Wherever her children go, resources are available to them.