Back to Basics…Part 2

“A child comes to the edge of deep water with a mind prepared for wonder.…Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts… Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming.” – Edward O. Wilson, excerpt from “Naturalist”

This statement, which I found in one of Naomi’s new science programs, gets to the heart of the second principle that we’ve based our family learning upon.  I’ve searched through many labels and definitions in the attempt to find one unifying concept for this principle – unschooling, Charlotte Mason, interest based learning, etc. Of course, no one paradigm can fit one child’s learning style, much less two. But we have consistently found that when considering our children’s education, the most important principle, next to the Holy Spirit, is the natural desire of a child.

2) Every moment of life is an opportunity to learn.

While we have undertaken more regimental curriculum this year for basic subjects like math and language arts, I’m convinced that most of our most memorable lessons came from times where no lessons where planned. Most homeschoolers know this implicitly. Specifically for us, however, it runs in the fabric of our daily life.  It began for me with my upbringing. My father was a chemistry major turned dentist that would never hesitate to break down scientific concepts at the dinner table.  Each time we had a project, we’d be quizzed on why the engineer or creator had put the item or product together in such a fashion.  My family gave me the desire to gain knowledge for knowledge’s sake, rather than as a means to an end. Now as a father myself, I’ve found the same desire to make each moment an educational adventure for my children.

Of course, there are the moans and groans when I tell the kids to “look it up” when they ask me a question. But they understand that it’s a privilege to have access to answers, and they have to take advantage of all the resources available to them. Sometimes the resource is Mom and Dad, but other times it’s the internet, or the library, or a tutor, or a Sunday School teacher.  The natural curiosity about our existence and the world surrounding us is more complete than any curriculum that could be developed.  What book could possibly include the myriad experiences and contexts we can derive from everyday life?  Just making breakfast in the morning, as the kids did today, involved heat transfer, states of matter, measurement, sequencing, chemistry, and  many more topics. While I do have to make sure I don’t try to turn every waking moment into a lesson, it deepens our respect and understanding of the complexity of life to stop and say, “Just how does that happen?”

As the quote above suggests, this is not an attempt to know the facts of everything. It’s the appreciation that there is more to know than can ever be known, and that as the Negro College Fund byline says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” There’s just no reason not to use the wonderful ability God gave us to reason.  Psalm 19:1-3 points out how everything God made points to God’s great creativity of mind.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

So in each moment of the day, God gives us opportunity to know more about Him by applying our critical and creative abilities to understand how he put the world, and us,  together. Whether it is in discovering how a compass works, figuring out how much the gas will cost before we pump it, or just discussing what we heard on the news, the economy of our mind is fueled by the currency of curiosity.  Much like the government has done lately, my job has been to keep the economy moving by supplying as much knowledge capital for my children to invest in as possible, so they can have an inheritance of wealth to give to their children as my parents did for me.

Part 3 to come…

Looking unto the hills,



4 thoughts on “Back to Basics…Part 2

  1. This is our first year homeschooling and we’ve slowly but steadily fallen away from set lessons and lesson plans and learned to just go with the flow of the day and take the teachable moments that pop up. My six year old still is not a fluent reader. He also is not a sequential learner, more of a whole picture kind of guy. How did (or do) you deal with teaching the basics (like phonics)?

    A part of me really wants to just let him learn at his own pace. Already he is quite advanced in science in math (of course we do keep two microscopes in the great room). I’m torn between wondering if he’s not ready to read or whether he’s not a more fluent reader because I have not yet found the right way to teach him. How do you know?

  2. Thank you Jlabunnymom… I must admit I can’t help much in the reading department. My kids were in pre and public schooling up until 1st and 2nd grade, respectively. I think our preschool used Abeka curriculum, which I remember was a phonics program.

    I can, however, sympathize with your child’s ‘whole picture’ outlook. I too sometimes had issues with being bored by details. I would definitely suggest connecting with other moms and/or a support group where you can be exposed to other options and methods. A really good site for comparing curricula is, where you can see ratings by other families. Most of all, remind yourself that it is the rare 30 year old that is still developmentally behind, and that most likely your son’s learning will come through his desire to understand what he’s exposed to. Your daily experience seems to show that he’s just like most boys – more into doing than sitting. If he’s naturally inquisitive about science, then books about science would be a perfect bridge. My wife did stay home for the first 3-4 years, and she simply made books a natural part of the day, sometimes pretending like she was learning to read so the kids would teach her. Reading is extremely important, but in the end it is simply another means of communication, and don’t feel that the weight of his progress falls squarely on your teaching methods. You are right to let him develop at his pace – not yours, and definitely not society’s. Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks! We live with my grandmother (87 years young) and she and I are avid readers. Chris is read to for about an hour to hour and a half in any day. He seems to have good recall and comprehension of what is read to him. It’s just the tedious phonics he’s having difficulty with. Part of the reason I’ve been cruising the homeschool blogs is to look for any other parents with the same sorts of challenges. I’ve found lots of people willing to post about difficulties with math, not so many post about problems in language arts.

    Your comment about all learning coming from God is a comfort. It makes it easier to relax and try to wait for the day the light bulb comes on for my son. Surely the Creator will provide a time and season for learning this skill. Our season at the moment seems to be science heavy since we have new puppies, fall harvest, and caterpiller patrol (wooly bears) going on right now. Now if only I can be patient and trust that the Creator can and will work in my son’s best interest and the whole burden for his education isn’t mine alone.

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