Over the next few weeks 4 Moms will be talking about some of the practical aspects of homeschooling: choosing a curriculum, teaching older and younger kids, keeping it all together, etc. This week is our introduction to that series. I thought that this would be a good time to remind you of our family’s homeschool priorities, goals and some of our peculiarities.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Since our goal and the focus for education is not the same as the world’s you would expect our course of study and daily activities to be different as well. They are.
1. We focus on building relationships.
Relationship is the method of teaching and instruction that is found in the Bible. Biblically we don’t see a pattern of people being taught by those with whom they have little or no relationship, rather the foundation of the teaching and training is the relationship. (I’ve written a series of posts on building relationships with your children.)
2. We make a concerted and conscious effort to focus on character.
Proverbs is a book inspired by God and dedicated to the instructions of a father to his son with the goal of instilling wisdom. How much of The Proverbs is dedicated to curriculum, course of study and scope and sequence? How much of this inspired book on education is dedicated to what we call ‘academics’?
A careful study of the book of Proverbs identifies nine major themes of the book:
- The principle of the tongue and the truth
- The principle of hard work
- The principle of self-control and avoiding temptation
- The principle of conflict resolution and getting along with others
- The principle of fearing God
- The principle of receiving reproof and respecting authority
- The principle of trusting God
- The principle of humility
- The principle of a virtuous spouse
~Kevin Swanson, “Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child“
Since The Book of Proverbs is our family’s education manual, character is our primary goal. That means that all other goals will play a secondary role (we won’t choose something that is excellent for academics, but questionable for character) and our decisions (hopefully) reflect that.
As we choose our curriculum, schedule our day and decide which subjects to include we place this goal before us and ask ourselves how it impacts the decision at hand.
In our house this means that sometimes our academic studies are put on hold while we work on the principle of hard work or the principle of getting along with others. Our children do not spend large amounts of time with those whose focus is academic training rather than character training and we don’t simply assume that they will learn these principles of character while they are studying math and science.
This is a radical concept, even in Christian circles, where the tendency is to buy a ‘good Christian’ curriculum and other than that educate our children in exactly the same manner as the world.
3. We make Biblical instruction a priority.
Our family spends time each morning in individual Bible reading and study. At breakfast we work on scripture memorization. At the beginning of school we read the Bible and pray. Each of the children has daily Bible study work to complete independently. We end our day with a time of family worship. I’m certainly not saying that this is perfect or that it is what everyone should do, it is simply what our family has implemented.
Pastor Swanson said something to us a few weeks ago that has encouraged Mark and me to once again examine this priority and how it works out in our home. He said, “If your child knows geometry better than he knows the Proverbs, then you have a problem with your priorities.” It is our tendency to worry and compare and make sure we are keeping up with others when it comes to math and grammar, but somehow we can neglect instructing our children in God’s Word without guilt. So for us it’s back to the drawing board for more thought and probably some changes.
4. We allow our children to serve others, even if it means cutting back on academics.
This is one of the practical out workings of focusing on character. If our focus is academic it will be difficult to fit this in especially as our children get older (there is no class or extracurricular credit for scrubbing toilets) but if our focus is character this will be an integral part of our children’s lives.
When I was a young mom with several young children and was dealing with morning sickness once again, I sought help from some homeschooled teenage girls. We wanted someone who was willing to cook some meals for us that we could put in our freezer. All the girls were too busy with academics and activities to help.
We are no longer the ones in need of the help, but we still see this pattern. As homeschool students move into the teenage years they become too busy with their own projects, sports and academics to serve those within the body of Christ. I’m not saying that they don’t have time for a mission trip here and there, but the day to day, nitty-gritty, can’t-put-it-on-a-resume serving those in their local church doesn’t make it into their schedule.
Our children should learn that it isn’t all about them, their education, their opportunities or their accomplishments. If we want them to grow to be adults who will see the needs of others and seek to meet those needs sacrificially, we should expect them to do it now. If they spend their younger years with those around them sacrificing, giving and adjusting their schedules so that they can have ‘the best educational opportunities’, this will be a difficult jump.
5. We do not feel obligated to follow the schedule or system of the government schools.
John Gatto, New York State Teacher of the year 1991
It is the great triumph of schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among even the best parents, there is only a small number who can imagine a different way to do things. Yet only a very few lifetimes ago things were different in the United States: originality and variety were common currency.
Does it really take 6-7 years to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division? Do we really need to spend years and years drilling grammar?
It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for “basic skills” practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I’ve just taught you. ~John Gatto, emphasis mine
Do we really need school? I don’t mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years…. Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn’t go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry, like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren’t looked upon as children at all. ~John Gatto, “Against School“
There is something comfortable about doing what everyone around you is doing, but it doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for you, for your children or for the future. Our homeschool does not look remotely like the government schools or even any private or Christian schools of which we’re aware.
6. We teach our children what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it.
We try not to fill our children’s days with busy work or unnecessary drill and review just because society expects it.
Colby (3) asked to learn to read a few days ago, so he is learning. When he begins to ‘write’ letters and notes on his own we will start teaching proper handwriting. When he makes a spelling or grammar error we will show him how to do it correctly and explain the reason/rule, but we won’t get out a textbook or introduce a whole new subject. He will understand fractions and equations long before he sees them written, but will begin formal math instruction much later than his peers. However, a few months after beginning math he will be working at the fourth or fifth grade level. (I’m not trying to be prophetic, but am assuming that he will follow the same path that his 7 older siblings have followed.)
Now the example of a child asking to learn to read when he’s 3 tends to be easy for a home educator. What if you have an 8 year old who is just beginning to read? Are you still willing to teach him what he needs to learn, when he needs to learn it? Trust me, children who fall on this end of the spectrum are more difficult because they aren’t up to society’s standard. However, go back to the book of Proverbs, what does God say about when we should teach reading?
If you’re interested in more info about our homeschool, please visit my homeschool page.
Now that you know some of the distinctives oddities of our homeschool, go read about how normal the other moms are.
Upcoming topics for 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage:
April 29 – The big picture, ideas and thoughts about homeschooling.
May 6 – Picking a curriculum, method or tactics that work for a large family.
May 13 – Teaching little kids
May 20 – Teaching big kids.
May 27 – Putting it all together.
June 3 – Husbands and homeschooling.
June 10 – Keeping house while homeschooling.
This post contains affiliate links.