Ever feel like a homeschooling failure? Relax, you’re among friends! Grab a cup of whatever makes you smile and read this post to find out how to make sense of homeschooling and rest your weary heart.
In a way of personal confessions, I could tell you some stories! I think my first homeschooled children were actually my guinea pigs. I tried a lot of different approaches; full-boar curriculum, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, even dabbled in unschooling. There were days when everything went smoothly, and others when everything was crazy.
I felt as though I was on a constant quest, never really satisfied with what we were doing. Hours and hours were spent doing research, observing. and evaluating.
Finally, I came to a very important conclusion:
When we lack focus and direction we become easily swayed and confused. We buy too much of all the wrong things and then feel guilty because we can’t get to them all. We spend our time on the useless and skip over the best. We end up feeling like we are spending massive amounts of time, energy, and money and going nowhere with our children.
Large family moms, especially, can’t afford this. Our time is more precious than bags of gold encrusted with diamonds. We don’t have anything to waste! Our efforts must be as efficient as possible.
And here is a second truth related to the first:
Doing workbooks, or unit studies, or Charlotte Mason without a firm understanding of your educational purpose will lead you down the road of frustration and burnout. Doing any of the same things with an understanding of real learning will help you do everything more purposefully.
“So, how does one go about finding this stupendously marvelous focusing philosophy?” I hear you saying.
I am so glad you asked!
First of all, it’s NOT what we are doing in public schools. In fact, conventional education gets it wrong on all sides.
There are dedicated, wonderful teachers involved on every level of public education who actually care, but their hands are tied to an institution which is bent on the dumbing-down of our nation (for a better explanation, watch this) towards the ultimate end of whatever groupthink is currently in charge.
I know you don’t have the time or energy to spend chasing down some crazy conspiracy theories, so let’s simplify it all. Any form of government that needs to control a mass of people needs to create consensus, or a general agreement among the governed, and the easiest way to go about this is to capture the minds of children via schooling and train them to think alike. The Greeks did it. The Romans did it. Hitler did it.
So, the bigger picture of the schooling we all grew up with is not about helping children, it is about helping children become part of the consensus.
What does this mean for you? It means that you are free from comparing yourself to how the schools “do it.” In fact, if you love your children and your country at all, you will want to reconsider the way children are taught in socialized education.
“But what should I do instead?” you ask.
I have spent 28 years working with our 15 children and thinking about this very thing. I have come to believe that a good education is more than a list of yearly requirements, but a system of four branches.
To my mind, an excellent education looks something like this:
1. A child’s relation to God and man.
This subject is of the utmost importance, and yet conventional schooling puts it at the very end of the list (if it is included at all).
How can you understand the mysteries of the universe unless you have a spiritual framework to put them in?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
We can’t understand the universe properly unless we look at it through Jesus.
For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Homeschooling is a waste of our time unless we are mindful of The Maker in all things. Our core should always be teaching and reminding our children of His truth in practical application.
I had the intention of becoming a theologian … but now I see how God is, by my endeavours, also glorified in astronomy, for ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’
Johannes Kepler, Astronomer
You can’t be mindful of God without being mindful of how He wants us to treat each other and function in society. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just a quote on Pinterest. What does it matter that a person can figure Pi to its thousandth decimal if he doesn’t know how to get along with others?
2. Tools for learning
This includes reading, writing, speaking, grammar, spelling, and math facts and operations. Can’t do much else without these!
Children who are solid in reading, writing, speaking, and basic math can pretty much follow any other pursuit with ease, as long as they have been taught that thinking for themselves is not illegitimate (something the public school system cannot tolerate).
You just have to find something very basic to teach these skills and stick to it (I have my favorites. Some of them I have shared already on this blog, others I will share in future posts).
Including content is easy and FUN! This includes just about everything one can think of, from God, to man, to the whole universe!
Some content may be required, such as an overview of the tenants of the faith compared with world religions, knowledge of basic scientific facts and theories, basic geography and astronomy, and familiarity with the history of the cultures and societies of man.
Other content areas are less specific and can be tailored according to interest and passion.
One thing I try always to keep in mind is that it is impossible to cover everything a person needs to know in 12 short years; no school could ever come close! Also, no child retains everything ever “taught” to him; this is mostly because we are all so unique and tend to open our ears only to those things that are of interest.
Better than force-feeding loads of data to the minds of my children as if they were computers, I feel it’s best to teach them how to research and learn for themselves, while being careful to distinguish the difference between truth and error. These skills are much more necessary than a bunch of trivial facts that can be memorized one day and forgotten the next.
4. Practical skills
No matter how hard we try and convince our youngsters, algebra is not directly applicable to most of the predicaments of life, such as when the toilet is clogged, a baby cries incessantly with colic, or the dog won’t stop barking and waking up the neighbors at night.
Learning things such as how to launder clothing, or maintain a car, or pay a utility bill are just as vital as knowing the life-cycle of fruit flies or the names of all of the presidents.
I’ve never had to purchase a set of texts in order to teach the practical aspects of life. Since they are home with us, our daily grown-up lives and responsibilities are closer and more familiar to our offspring, which would not have been possible if they were cloistered in a classroom. My children learn life skills as they are included in everyday tasks, and as they begin to explore and experience life on their own and are able to ask questions and receive knowledge and wisdom from us and other trusted adults.
Keeping these tiers in mind has solved loads of problems for me. It has helped me lessen my “decision fatigue” and kept me on track when so many voices were trying to distract and derail me.
I hope it helps you, too!