We had to take our son out of the local junior high and home school him for 1 1/2 years. It was a difficult decision, took an incredible amount of time and attention, but it worked out well for our child in the short and long term. Here are my thoughts about what works in home schooling, and how to promote a love of nature for Pagans and non-Pagans alike.
In our situation our tall burly son had ‘gangs” beating on him (he learned about mugshots the day we confronted school administration about it); he had stopped enjoying his lessons with that and the really sub-par teaching. We decided to leave this public school, and luckily we found a regional charter home school to help us. The charter school provided oversight with a teacher and classes with other children one day a week. My father was a retired junior high math and English teacher and taught in our home 2 days a week. Our son was old enough for one study day a week on his own. I arranged my full time work schedule to work with him the rest of the time.
Be aware that you must have the time to first learn the subjects you will teach, make (and keep to) lesson plans, and be sure you are keeping up with progress for your child’s grade level. (I did lots of work late at night trying to improve a lesson.) Using local public school textbooks, even partially, with your own supplements can help make sure your child does not fall behind or have gaps in common knowledge. There are many wonderful resources online to add lessons for all grade levels, especially in science. Go to NASA, National Public Radio’s Science Friday, institutions like the Exploratorium in San Francisco, etc. Your local museums may have programs for children. (We actually continued supplementing subjects when our son returned to public high school, and I think this helped him keep interested in further education.)
If you can teach your child how first to be mindful, then able to observe, and able to see how the web of life is interconnected you will be providing excellent nature revering and/or ‘Pagan’ education in my opinion. If my son had been younger (and knowing how it has helped my own path now), I would have included meditation along with regular school topics. I also recommend using a computer as a tool, but not as the main method of teaching. As in- find those experiments on the internet, but then actually do them with your child. (Show the difference in evaporation and surface tension by pouring water, rubbing alcohol, and cooking oil on a smooth kitchen or bath counter top. Take field trips to learn about the local geology- the Roadside Geology book series is great for this in the US.)
From a Druidic perspective, I taught by showing interconnections. For example, we would take walks and talk and read about how the local geology influences the size and types of plants, water flow, and on. (Guess my natural resources degree shows!) My father did the same with humanities and ethics, and when your child is older there are wonderful books that combine history, science, and ethics. (My father and son designed and grew a labyrinth as his 8th grade project; my parents are so wonderful! The project involved historical research and quite a bit of math.) Every family has knowledge that can enhance lessons- whether working on motors (physics and material sciences), growing plants (biology), art, music, and more. Teach about the source of the materials, resources, or inspirations necessary for these activities or hobbies.
Social activities can be difficult to find when homeschooling. Look into activities your child can do with others their age, such as sports (we did martial arts together), music groups, etc. (In particular I believe every girl should have some martial arts training. It’s excellent for discipline at any age, and many martial arts forms are very spiritual in their focus.) See if there are play groups for home schooled kids, or parent support groups. You can get together with other parents and kids for outings to nature centers, concerts, and museums.
Homeschooling is a lot of work, but can be very rewarding. At the time I thought my home school science teaching was somewhat sub-par, as I didn’t have a lab and equipment. Now our son is a junior in a very challenging liberal arts science college majoring in mathematics, with plans to possibly go into post-doctoral research. (And he still has interests in humanities and ethics!)
So good luck and have fun teaching, whether schooling at home or adding to what your child learns in school! Continuously learning blessings,
Update April 2016: Our son graduated with a BS in Mathematics (and computer science) and his first job was in software development with Microsoft in Washington state. He still has plans to get a doctorate. (And he’s writing a play!)
Here is a list of the resources we used that I can still remember, and/or those that have been greatly expanded in the last few years.
Oak Ridge National Lab– science, energy, space, weather & climate, environmental, conservation and related education resources
Talk of the Nation: Science Friday® is a science talk show that can be heard each Friday afternoon, 2-4 p.m. (EST) on selected NPR stations. They have middle school teaching resources at Kids’ Connection. Each content page has a summary of the radio program, discussion ideas, activities, links to the audio, selected resources, and related science standards, all found on the web
History of Science (On the Shoulders of Giants) book series, by Ray Spangenburg & Diane Moser Science from the ancient greeks to the 1990s. Just excellent explanations of how science developed for the junior high plus crowd.
US HISTORY BOOKS (advanced level middle school & high school)
US history- Great Issues in American History (multiple volumes) by Hofstadter
Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison