It’s time to finish up my series on things I have learned from homeschooling! I’ve enjoyed this backward look over the past 20 years–things always look different in retrospect that they did when you were in the middle of living it. Here’s a link to part one and part two.
Part three today carries me back to the beginning of our homeschooling journey. My husband was working as a youth minister, and we were disturbed by some of the things we heard from the youth about their experiences at school. I was enjoying my 3 1/2 year old, and was not particularly interested in sending him off to school all day. My oldest sister was doing some homeschooling, and because she lived far away, she sent me some “Teaching Home” magazines. These opened up a whole new world to me, and I began reading everything the library had about homeschooling–a wide variety of philosophies, from John Holt to the Moores to Gregg Harris and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I learned some things from all of them, but because I have always been a book lover (and unimpressed with textbooks), I found that the ideas of Charlotte Mason struck a cord within me. We followed those ideas with varying degrees of diligence through the years, but they bore great fruit in my children’s minds and hearts.
So here’s a list of things I learned from the early years of our homeschooling:
1. Curriculum is your servant.
This is actually a quote from Ruth Beechick. I highly recommend her books about the 3 R’s–very sensible stuff. But I have tried never to forget that I am the one in charge, and just because this book says to do it this way, does not mean that I must. You know your child best, and you mold the curriculum–whatever type it is–to fit their needs. And yes, it’s okay to skip a lesson if they already know what is being taught.
2. Habits and character make it all come together.
It is easy at all stages of homeschooling to over-emphasize the academics, and forget the big picture: that we are raising a child here, not one who can simply read, write and think, but one that is discerning about moral issues and has good moral habits. There may be times when schoolwork needs to be set aside briefly to concentrate fully on developing those good habits of obedience and right choices. But like most habits, these can be learned and reinforced one little bit at a time. And when you keep good habits and character as a priority along with the schoolwork, you will see that they complement each other. Schoolwork time is an opportunity to practice diligence and good attitude, and a child whose character is being molded by his parents is more pleasant to be around all the time.
3. A mind is not a bucket to be filled.
You may have seen that quote by W.B. Yeats–“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”. I was reading last night about the Common Core standards for teaching which many states are adopting for their public schools. The lesson plan the article was describing sounded very much like the filling of a bucket to me. A good deal of what I learned as a public schooled youngster was learned from books I read outside of class and experiences provided by my parents. Be mindful of the spark within your children, and do your best to feed the flame. Remember that if they love to learn, that will continue to do so throughout their lives, long after they have left your home.
4. Small things done consistently reap a great reward.
We’re talking early years here–days filled with the demands of young children and younger siblings. Sometimes fitting in homeschooling seems overwhelming. The idea of learning all those math facts is just too much. And taken as a whole, it is too much. You may not have time to do all the addition facts every day, but you do have time to work on just a few. You can find time to post a memory verse by the table and read it together at every meal. We did this for years, and learned a verse from each book of the Bible. The key here is “consistency”–if you do these small things just every now and then, they will not come together and get the job done.
If you’ve made it all this way, thank you! I appreciate your interest in our journey, and encourage to continue faithfully on if you are homeschooling.