Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
Last night—after much scheming and manipulating of time and space—we were able to attend a curriculum event for a home school group of which we are members. The event offered parents a chance to share curriculum they use, why they use it, and learn from other parents as each shared what worked—and doesn’t work—for them. Jen is more into the curriculum side of things, to be sure, and was looking forward to being there. She enjoyed it thoroughly. (I occupied the kids for the duration of the meeting in various other nearby locations, waiting to get to talk with everyone after the event was over.)
Once I and my five children in tow were allowed to mingle, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who got me thinking again about what education really means to us. About what we feel is important that we instill in, pass along to our children.
We were chatting a bit about how much home schooling seems to be focused around the Mom in the family. Most of the events are planned, executed, and attended by the moms. The dads are a very secondary—albeit supportive, encouraging—part of the whole home schooling process. Much of it is just logistics. Many of the home schooling families we know consist of the Dad working a full-time job outside of the home, while the Mom works very little (or none at all) outside the home, making her the one who “teaches” the kids.
Our philosophy is slightly different. It may just be semantics, or a mindset, but we really try to “home school” as a family. Not just Jen. Not just me. But really, more as a way of life. As the Campbells.
Once on that topic, my friend asked, “So how do you do that? How do you get involved in the school part?” He really wants to, but again, logistically, just can not. Having tried many different approaches, he has resigned himself to the fact that most of the teaching has to be done by his wife, who is home with the kids.
So, since he asked, it caused me to think about what I really mean when I say that we home school as a family. I mean, I work full-time (and more) though, thankfully, it’s mainly from my home office. But I can’t be involved in the “table time” as Jen calls it. I smile at the stuff that is learned and produced there, enjoying the stories told by our kids who love such academic exercises. But what I explained—and understood better in my head as I did—was that the key is what we think of education.
Many parents who choose to home school feel varying levels of frustration because they are trying to do school at home. I’d say a lot of people assume that’s what home school is. The same subjects, courses, lessons taught by the institutional public school would also be taught—even required to be taught—to children who are “home schooled”. This is not entirely true. While it is true that we must report to the local school district what we are teaching our children (by the way, a “requirement” of which I am not all that fond) there is a good degree of latitude allowed to us in the interpretation of what meets those requirements. And, Jen is very good at assigning various things she teaches at table time, or we learn at other times, to those “requirements”.
But the best part is—and what I told my home schooling Dad friend—that stuff… the “required” learning by the state… that’s really the bonus stuff. Sure, our kids need to learn the basics. Reading, writing, arithmetic. That’s a good deal of what Jen does in “table time”. But the real education of our kids is so much more.
We want our kids to know God. We want them to know Him, not just about him. We want them to know how life works, how to treat other people. How to consider others, treating them as you’d like to be treated. How to learn discipline, and self control. Big stuff like that.
We also want them to know little stuff like how to take care of the stuff God gives you. How to cook, clean, build, repair. How to grow, prune, trim, weed. How to run a business. How to pay bills. How to not take more than God has given you (credit cards, anyone??)
Why do we think that learning ever starts and stops? We don’t take summer breaks. Or winter, or spring. We don’t take weekend breaks. Because from the moment we wake up in the morning, to the time we go to sleep…
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)
That’s a good verse that many home schooling families use, but I think it applies to our view of educating our kids, too. (Though I wouldn’t say it’s complete. That covers the big stuff, as I said earlier.) But it really is an all the time, everywhere thing. And in that way, I—as much as Jen—am an active part of the education of our children. (And even of our family. Just as our children are always learning, aren’t we all? I know I am.)
Jen even actually puts stuff on doorframes. For real. 🙂
So, it’s not perfect. We don’t have all the answers, but perhaps you’re reading this because you home school, or want to, and you don’t feel qualified. Or you don’t feel like you know where to start. I think if you are a parent—and especially a parent who loves their kids, and are trying to help them “grow up right”—then you have most everything you need. All the other stuff is pretty easy to find these days. Not only do you likely have a library nearby, if you’re reading this, you also have access to the World Wide Web. (Not a bad source of information…)
Academic learning is great, and has a place. But it is not education. I still feel that is the bonus. Get the other stuff right, and then the academic stuff is icing on the cake. Build character and integrity into your kids, and even just the confidence of knowing they are loved and accepted, and the rest of the stuff will come as it needs to. And, ultimately, we don’t want our kids to just learn facts and details they can parrot back to us, we want them to learn how to learn. That will serve them much better.
I could go on about personalities and preferences (every kid is different, and we really try to follow what each of our kids is interested in, help them explore those things more) but … this post is already longer than I intended.
These words are meant as encouragement, not to condemn a different viewpoint or methodology. If you have a format (or a curriculum!) that works for you, keep at it. One of the greatest things about home schooling is that it really gives you the freedom to educate your kids as you see fit. So go for it!
For us, the Campbells, we are enjoying the journey of life, and loving training our kids in the way they should go.