As you think back on your home school experience what advice would you give to a new home school mom?
In 1980, as David and I began to home school our oldest son Bryce, we were intent upon teaching the "Three R's: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic." Since we thought home schooling meant school at home, we followed the traditional school approach. Thus began several years of guilt and frustration. I was trying to cover 5 to 6 subject areas everyday, with several children. Because I was unable to finish all the expected work, I felt very discouraged. Like running on an ever increasing treadmill, the pressure to succeed ever intensified. Our parents, friends at church, neighbors, and business associates watched us - just waiting for failure so that they could congratulate themselves that this home schooling idea was as crazy as they thought.
Now almost 20 years later, with five of our nine children godly young adults, three of whom are in college, we have a different perspective. We consider three different R's - relationships, reasoning, and resolves - to be just as essential.
To other people, it seemed like such a strange idea: choosing to keep our children at home with us all day long. However, God was calling us (and He is probably calling you) -- calling us back to be families. We wanted to spend our entire day learning together, working together, playing together. We wanted to be our children's role models for how to live successfully in families. We chose to keep our children at home with us to build closer, deeper relationships with them.
After several years, it was obvious that true learning and deeper relationships were simply not happening. Looking back now I know the reason -- I was trying to reproduce my own school experience in our home. Using traditional textbooks did not facilitate learning or positive relationships. How could they? Textbooks were written for group instruction. I wanted to spend one-on-one time with our children. When our children spent all their time with a workbook or textbook, they were neither relating to me, nor understanding their lessons. In fact, I found that we were actually being isolated from each other. This was exactly the opposite of what I had hoped would happen. Maybe, home schooling wasn't for me.
Every night I would ask David, "How do I do this?" In response, he began to write one-on-one conversations for me to use. Our children responded wonderfully to our times of learning together. Our relationships grew stronger as we enjoyed natural conversations about math and science. Our relationships flourished as I taught them in this new, natural way. We began to view home schooling as discipleship. We saw ourselves rebuilding our family oneness, and, at the same time, equipping our children to someday have their own successful families.
I Peter 5:2-4 establishes a proper attitude regarding toward our children: "Tend -- nurture, guard, guide and fold -- the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint but willingly
eagerly and cheerfully. Not (as arrogant, dictatorial and overbearing persons) domineering over those in your charge, but being examples -- patterns and models of Christian living -- to the flock. And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed you will win the conqueror's crown of glory". Our 'flock' as parents is our children. Once your unconditional love is firmly established, then your children will want to follow your leadership and to embrace your teaching and beliefs. When children grow up in a home where their mother and father demonstrate love to each other, where they receive unconditional love as expressed through eye contact, physical closeness, and focused attention, they will want to have a relationship with their parents, and will hold dearly the Christian world view.
As a child, David used to love going to the Oklahoma State Fair with his family. He was fascinated by the chicken which had been trained, through behavior modification, to play the "Star Spangled Banner". Later, he was to learn that this teaching-training model was used extensively in education to "teach" school children across the nation. However, these were not just any school children. They were us! We were taught simply to parrot back information without understanding. Thus, many math facts, dates, names of people and events were memorized for the test, and quickly forgotten. They held no meaning for us, thus adding to the meaninglessness of our own lives. This kind of education was certainly not what David and I desired for our children!
Paul encourages us to grow to maturity in Christ. "When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child, but when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming: but speaking the truth in love" (I Cornintians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14, 15).
The picture Paul paints is of children in a boat being hopelessly tossed to and fro between gusts of teaching from opposing philosophies - cleverly disguised lies made to sound like the truth. It is true that children reason differently than adults. A person reasoning at the childish level is not able to understand the philosophical presuppositions behind the ideas being presented. If a nation was made up predominately of adults who reasoned at the childish level, that nation would be vulnerable to great deception and manipulation by those dispensing information to the people of that society.
Neither the chicken, nor the child, who has been taught through behavioral modification, is being taught to reason. When we examined materials that we could use to teach various subjects to our children, we found logical reasoning to be missing. Teaching our children to evaluate ideas by critically examining what is being presented is one of our primary resolves. As our children mature, we want them to reason as adults, on the highest level of reasoning, so that they will be able to combat these cleverly disguised lies, be able to stand independent of the secular thoughts and ideas of this culture, and be able to give an adequate defense for the hope that is within them.
After a few years of home schooling, we discovered that it was absolutely necessary that we have a very determined purpose before us. Simply maintaining a home and family were so challenging that without a clear set of goals, we could easily become lost in the sea of details. There were so many balls to juggle: lesson plans, schedules, curriculum, sports and other extra curricular activities. So many good programs and activities were available to crowd out the very best which we wanted to impart to our children. We had often heard the saying, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." We were seeing the truth of this in our own family.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer has said, "We must be consciously preparing the next generation for the new battles they will face." This was our desire: to prepare and equip our children for these new battles. We realized we needed to resolve ( determine once for all) the goals that would give direction to our home school.
The thoughts and ideas at the end of the 20th century, which are being delivered in the most entertaining and powerful ways, are challenging the Christian world view. We resolved to set a course of action for our children that would give them the ability to stand ready to meet these challenges to their faith. Like Paul, we have determined not to rely upon own strength, our own knowledge, or our own abilities (I Corinthians 2:2), but, by God's strength, we have resolved:
To build our family upon the Biblical world view;
To establish our children's lives upon truth and absolutes;
To equip our children to reason;
To enter into true spirituality;
To be 'by faith' families;
To prepare our children as a 'Letter of Christ' to the culture;
To challenge our culture with the truth of Christianity and the life of Christ.
We wish we would have clearly settled our resolves from the very beginning of our home schooling. Definite goals would have given us greater strength and courage on the difficult days. Now that our purposes are clearly established we know why we are doing what we are doing, therefore, the how comes naturally.
Now we encourage families to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic within the framework of strong relationships, reasoning from the Biblical world view, and clearly established resolves. Then your children will be fully equipped to enter the 21st century.
These suggestions are adapted from Let Us Highly Resolve written by David and Shirley Quine.
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