I’ve been inspired and maybe a bit chastised by reading some great homeschooling blogs as of late, including from Charlotte Mason experts and fatherhood proponents. Perhaps my last few entries have strayed from the purpose of detailing how this homeschooling dad makes it through the day.
I thought I might detail the basics of our family learning philosophy, as fragmented as it may be, to provide context to the examples of our curriculum and activity choices. There’s no formula that I picked up in any one book or manuscript here; rather, it is the combination of all the learning and experience of the last three years that we have taken this journey. Here’s the first and most important –
1) Knowledge and learning are gifts from God, and are to be used for His purposes.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Father is the source of all knowledge. Not only in the theological sense that He knows all, but in the practical sense that everything we think about had to have a source in someone else’s mind. As babies our thoughts are formed and shaped by the environment and experiences of our parents or caretakers. We slowly come to a consciousness of our own conscious, but we never forget that it was formed and developed through contact with others. In the same way, our thoughts and ability to think was generated by the initial contact of the Creator, not by some leap of evolutionary biology. C.S. Lewis talks about this in the moral sense when he points out that without some source of the concept of “good”, we would have no idea what constituted right behavior, except that which pleased us or made us feel a certain pleasurable way. But it is clear that even morally bankrupt people have some idea of a standard. No culture ever decided that being dishonest to your neighbor was a good thing, or that abandoning one’s children is admirable. This standard wasn’t simply developed in a vacuum, it was placed there by the Creator to remind us that we have a higher standard to reach to. As Romans states, “They are without excuse”.
This impacts our family learning decisions in that I always consider how my educational choices impact my children’s spiritual development. It may seem that only would affect science (creationism vs. evolution), but it has much wider impact. When choosing the language arts component, I noticed most traditional workbooks had a very liberal view of business – meaning, every time businesses were mentioned, the connotation was negative. That doesn’t square with the scriptural principle that God grants us the wisdom to gain wealth. I didn’t want my kids constantly reviewing a concept that was at its heart against the work ethic that Christians are to aspire to. Also, we have spent many days discussing how we should challenge ourselves to do better than the norm – even when we are ahead of our peers educationally. The question is not whether we are doing better than others, but whether we are learning and producing work “as unto the Lord” (Col 3:17). Since He is the one that gifted us with the ability to learn, isn’t it His purpose and His approval that matters?
This is a very freeing concept in this day of testing and accountability. My daughter may not learn her time tables as fast as others, but in God’s sight she is striving as mightly as Paul was ‘toward the mark’. Marcus may be sometimes impatient with his ability to get every problem right, but in God’s sight his mind is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It reminds me every day that it is not my approval either that counts. When God is the source and the standard of our learning, all of my efforts become secondary when viewed in light of the superior teaching ability of the Holy Spirit to guide them. When I remember to always trust His plans and His purposes in my children, I can rest in the fact that He that began the work will complete it. Whatever their eventual career choice, I will know that their education was designed to give God the freedom to take them anywhere He feels they will glorify Him the most.
When viewing family learning in this light, the final exam is not the test at the end of the book, nor even the SAT or the MCAT. It is the test from the parable of the talents, in which those that did the most with what the Master gave them heard the words, “Servant, well done.” That is the statement that will determine whether I was successful in my homeschooling efforts, and of course, it is one that I pray and trust my children will aspire to and one day hear for themselves.
To be continued,
Looking unto the hills,