Edited May 2019: We were a part of a wonderful Classical Conversations community for the first eight years of our home education journey. Now, due to poor state leadership and questionable corporate business practices, our family has elected to “consciously uncouple” from our association with the organization and we cannot recommend any others get involved at this time.
I posed some questions we had to answer as a family in yesterday’s Story of Reluctant Homeschoolers: Part Two:
What is the point of education?
Is an education truly necessary? Is it useful for all people?
Each family will answer these questions differently. I’m going to share our answers to these questions by simply talking through what we witness in our own homeschool.
Our homeschool journey is under constant analysis and revision (and I’ve heard that from many other homeschool parents as well). It’s a fluid process for our family: we are constantly wondering how we can scale back or improve.
While my type-A personality hates that fluidity, I’m comforted by knowing responsiveness is a leadership skill and important to practice. I also recently heard most airlines are off course 99% of their flights, that it’s only through constant corrections they find their way to their destinations.
When I don’t keep the long-term vision in front of me, I completely lose track of the destination in the excruciating minutiae of raising four children aged 7-years-old and under; the nobility of this decision to be a full-time educator is completely obliterated in the knowledge there is laundry on the sofa needing to be put away and a suspicious puddle on the floor in front of the bathroom door.
I’ve been known to read popular blogs or peruse Pinterest and completely freak out because we don’t do art or science projects at home; when I attend homeschool conferences it looks like everyone else has their home school better organized operating more effectively than ours.
I struggle with insecurity, with wanting the best for our children; I quiz my kids after they come home from gymnastics or AWANA and ask them if they feel as smart as the other kids? When Uno didn’t pick up on reading at 5 years old – or 6 years old into 7 years old – I was in a panic and certain we were short-changing our children a good education as obviously my best efforts weren’t paying off.
Yet we stuck with it.
When I get my head wrapped around the knowledge the only comparisons I should make are against the priorities we’ve set as a family (and, of course, our state requirements for homeschooling) I realize we do have success happening around our dinner table.
When we stay the course we slowly see fruit being produced in this educational model.
Why do I say that?
Our children treat people who look or act differently than what they’re used to with love. I take them to the play areas in the mall and see them treat strangers with a friendly attitude and look for ways to help. I’m seeing the fruit of character in them.
When we travel, our children are obedient and trustworthy. We rarely have to ask them to do things more than once and we don’t worry for their safety. We’re seeing the fruit of safety in them.
Yesterday we were looking at clouds and Uno asked me how tornadoes formed. Our conversation stretched through vocabulary words: atmosphere, weather patterns, and temperature differentiation. Then it went a step further and we discussed the tornadoes in Oklahoma this past spring and how a weather occurrence impacted everyday living, house structure, emergency supplies; we talked about how to handle fear of unpredictability by trusting in God’s plan even when we don’t understand the “why.” We’re seeing the fruit of critical thinking as our children recognize how our world laces together.
When I ask our kids about their friends they always name their siblings first. They choose to spend time together and they help each other out as a natural process. We’re seeing the fruit of unity in our family.
I don’t share this because I think our kids are soooo special. I share it because I need the encouragement of looking at these items and seeing snapshots of progress. I share it because my kids may not be awesome when we get around to taking the standardized tests… but it doesn’t change the quality of the education they are receiving. (Although I do hope they do well on standardized test. It’s just that in our opinion tests are not the most important piece of their education… or even in the top five most important pieces.)
There’s another point I have to remind myself constantly: You can’t force the fruit.
These children are going to bloom in their own dad-blamed, sweet, meandering time. We plant the seed with knowledge and lessons, but we can’t force true understanding. We can nourish the soil with academic Miracle Gro – for us it’s a program like Classical Conversations and flashcards and conversations and the History and Discovery channels – but the seed will sprout when the seed will sprout. I can’t mold it to my time schedule.
Too often I want my children to pick up on a concept after one explanation. I want them to be experts well before we’ve put in the 1,000 hours needed to truly know something. I want the accolades of smart kids who are perfect and destined for success… because I want the pat on the back as their primary educator.
I want a beautiful, picture perfect, happy family where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Yet we all know that phrase was a funny monologue of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, MN radio show because it’s implausible… bordering on insanity.
I have to consciously decide – over and over – if I push for my kids look perfect, there’s a reasonable chance they will never be educated.
With that in mind, I’d rather lose the battle of daily perfection (and I do!) but win the war of a well-rounded, high-character child that sees God in every part of their life because it’s never been segmented; to have children that learn about relationships and family through continued encounters with people who can be challenging and aren’t scared of being authentic because they haven’t been pressured to be perfect.
Nothing I’ve talked about in this post says a specific thing about the quadratic equation, spelling bees, or Romeo and Juliet… but these paragraphs have everything to do with our family values about education and what we think education should contain.
At no point can I claim this journey is easy… but because it aligns with our values it becomes doable and worth it.
Does your child’s education reflect your family’s values?
Have you missed a part of the Story of a Reluctant Homeschooler? Here you go, links to catch up!