Today is another non-traditional home schooling day in the life of the Clarksons. It cannot be helped! We are leaving on a weeklong trip. Packing must be completed. This article must be written. The dog needs to be cared for, clothes need to be washed, notes for the seminar packed, swimming suits packed, and film and camera made ready for our trip to Prince Edward Island! Am I abusing my children by not spending time in real school activities?
One child rushed in to read me an article he wrote about his favorite hobby, “just ‘cause I wanted to!”
Another child yelled up, “Come look at my website design, Mom! It’s looking great! By the way, I just put a new Monet picture on your screen saver. You’ll love it!”
A third child (my oldest!) is napping. A fourth is enjoying a water slide that her older brother rigged up for her outside.
When I first began my journey of home schooling, I would have felt guilty about a day like today. Are my children learning? Am I neglecting them? Will I be able to catch up? Over the years, I have seen that God created the life and activity of a home to be the best place for children to learn and explore. I can relax, knowing that when these inevitable days come my way, it might be just what my kids need—time to explore, think, read, play, and be quiet. Sometimes I am amazed at what God has taught them—in spite of my own plans.
Over the years we have defined for ourselves ten basic distinctives for education in our own home. These have given us a base from which to build during the more-disciplined days and during the less-structured ones.
Children need a home and family.
God designed families to raise children. It is natural and normal for children to want to stay with their parents until they are grown. It is unnatural and abnormal to believe others should or must raise your children for you. Only the love and stability of a godly family can provide the solid center all children need and deserve to grow up wise and godly.
Children need to be discipled by their parents.
The first responsibility of Christian parents before God is to “make disciples” of their children. As a child’s heart is turned toward God and his feet are put on the path of life, his mind then begins to grow in godly wisdom. Discipleship is the process of bringing up children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” in order to bring them under God’s authority. Until your child’s heart is submitted to you and to God, you cannot effectively educate his mind.
Children need to be accepted as persons.
The child you disciple and educate is no less a whole person than a fully-grown adult. Everything that defines person-ness—intelligence, curiosity, creativity, reason, will—is present in your child. God’s image and likeness are complete in your child.
Children need purpose and hope.
Christian home education is the shaping of a life, not just the preparation for a living. Your child needs to see that home education is preparing him for a higher purpose in life, and that his real hope is heaven, not the riches of this world. He needs to know that his purpose in life is to serve God, not to make money and buy things.
Children need many relationships.
Life is a series of relationships, and we learn from all of them—family, God, siblings, spouse, friends, church, teachers, employers, employees, customers, and others. Exposure to many kinds of relationships prepares a child to better relate to and learn from others as an adult.
Children naturally love to learn.
Children do not have to be told to want to learn—they can be trusted to learn. The key to their learning, then, is to create an environment rich with whole books and real life that provides opportunities to exercise their natural desire for knowledge.
Children learn from real life.
Seeing and holding a garden snake discovered on a nature walk is infinitely more interesting and educational to a child than being told in a classroom what a garden snake is like. Children need much free time and real-life experience to grow.
Children learn from real books.
It is natural for a child to prefer a whole book. One of the keys to true education is to feed a child’s natural desire for knowledge with lots of good food, rather than stave it with bits of inferior, tasteless food. Whole and living books are deeply satisfying to children. When children are allowed to taste and sample a wide selection of whole books, their appetites will be trained, and they will want to come back for more.
Children learn from fine arts.
It is in the study of the fine arts that a child is introduced to the passion, power, and beauty of life expressed through the eyes of artists, musicians, and poets. The integration of intellect and emotion in the fine arts is a dim but true reflection of God’s creative nature that is part of His image in man.
Children learn from ideas.
A steady intake of lifeless facts and data will dull a child’s mind and senses. Children, like adults, think and feel deeply—they need to feed mentally on ideas and concepts that help them to understand and make sense of their world.
Of course there are many other aspects to home schooling that we integrate into our home. Yet when I focus the minutes of my days on priorities, when I fill my home and family life with resources, interesting people, meaningful activities, and live my own life before them with purpose, joy, and a gusto for life; then in my home, my children will get all they need to be prepared to live the lives for which God designed them.
Tonight, when I go to bed, I will lie down in peace. I will know that by being faithful to live my life to the fullest and trusting God for what tasks He has given me to do, I will have accomplished His will in my life and in the lives of my children.