About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Strangers and pilgrims

I read to the boys this morning from Genesis: ‘Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.’’ (Genesis 12:1). Much later in the Bible, in the letter to the Hebrews, this is commented upon. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’ (Hebrews 11:8-9). Other references remind us to live our lives here cautiously, as strangers and pilgrims whose true home is in heaven.

We spoke of these verses today as we were moving on again, having spent the past four months living in a different city. It seems that over the past few years we have been called to move on several occasions. Sometimes there has been a very clear purpose, such as short-term overseas mission work. This time, it was more for the practical reason of living closer to our workplaces (both my husband and I had been placed several hours away from our home, but quite close to one another). Whilst we had felt confident that God was guiding us to settle in the neighbourhood for these months, it was also a difficult few months. Which led me to reflect on the experience... Does difficulty mean that it was not right? I recently read a study that suggested that we are part of a generation which expects instant results, instant gratification, instant reassurance. Apparently the craving for ‘likes’ on Facebook is similar to that induced in lab rats exposed to pleasant or noxious stimuli. And to an extent, in our spiritual lives too, do we come to desire, to expect, to be disappointed in the absence of immediate results? Sometimes, perhaps more often than we realise, we don’t fully understand why God led us down a certain path. There can be times when we feel strongly called to a particular course of action, but are not rewarded by affirmation that this was indeed the right thing to do. This is where faith comes in. God does not change, although everything around us may do. He is not like a man, who changes and can be inconsistent. My boys love to sing, ‘Yesterday, today, forever Jesus is the same. All may change but Jesus never, glory to His name!’ and that is truth. I don’t fully know why we made this move, and certainly it didn’t seem as rewarding or fulfilling as other short term moves have done. But that does not mean it was not right, and does not mean that God did not use the time well.

One huge advantage in home education is that we can easily move from one place to the next. Each is simply a new set of adventures, of opportunities, of resources, a new world to explore. And so, for these past four months, we have explored some beautiful country parks which were a short walk from our house, have completed a full term of Spanish lessons in the next village, we have enjoyed fellowship in a different church, we have had a garden to run free in. I love to watch how they embrace each new home as a fresh page, an adventure waiting to happen, a delight. Sometimes I wonder when I lost that childlike enthusiasm! Yet another great thing about home educating is that we get to share their delight in living, and see the world through unjaded eyes. 

Often I pray that they do not lose that energy. Another reason we are grateful they are not in the mainstream education sector is that we have seen how quickly children become bored, or come to see school or learning as dull and uninteresting. It is frightening to see how rapidly bright eyed lively children become tired of the pace and structure of the classroom. Yes, I might over-generalise at this point, and I know there is huge diversity within both children as individuals and educational establishments. And some children are spurred on towards excellence, discovery, to delight in gaining understanding of the world in which they are placed. Just I believe that can be best achieved through allowing them the freedom to develop and explore at their own pace and in line with their own interests.

But back to today’s lesson, where I started this reflection. I pray that whatever happens, that they will grow with a worldview which understands that this world, with all its beauty and splendour, is not their final destiny, is not their true home. I pray that as they start to see pain, suffering and ugliness as well as the glories of creation, that they will understand this is simply a consequence of a fallen universe, but that one day there will be a new heaven  and a new earth, and everything will be made new. 

As the writer to the Hebrews continued, having discussed Abraham and many other men and women of faith, ‘and all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set out for us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 11: 39-12:2).

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Comments and discussion

A couple of people have commented that is difficult to post replies to this blog. I've recently adjusted some of the settings to try and make it easier (for example, removing the code word that you have to repeat, which seems simply to discriminate against anybody with the slightest hint of dyslexia!).

Please do feel free to post, or if you would like to comment but cannot post, you can always email me at teachkondwani@gmail.com

Peter Rabbit

I don't know if I had previously read Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, but these are the type of books which are seen as 'classics' and which groups such as Ambleside online (derived from Charlotte Mason's methodology) consider ideal. Certainly the English is of a far better standard than that encountered in many more modern children's books. For example, 'Peter gave himself up for lost and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.'

But the basic story is of a disobedient rabbit who gets himself into danger, loses his new shoes and coat (for the second time in a fortnight) and ends up quite unwell as a consequence. Old mother rabbit, it would seem, wonders where his clothes went but doesn't seem all that perturbed, and instead gently puts him to bed with camomile tea. The only hint of a punishment is the consequence that Peter cannot enjoy the bread and milk and blackberries for supper that his sisters have.

It just made me wonder... I've come across a few childrens' books lately where disobedience and rebellion are almost encouraged, or if not encouraged, seen as a normal part of childhood. And yet at the same time, with boys aged 4, 3 and 1, I spend much of my day trying to enforce the importance of obedience, especially when one's safety is at risk. The story of Peter Rabbit, much enjoyed by the older boys, seems a direct contradiction of some of the standards I am trying to encourage.

What do other readers think? Am I taking things too seriously? Or should I use the story of an illustration of what should not be done? Should I see it as a teaching opportunity in its own right? Or should I simply let them enjoy the story and raise their own questions and draw their own conclusions? I'd love to know!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Who defines 'childhood' anyway?

In the UK (or at least in England, where I currently am living) there is a fair amount of debate about curricula for primary aged children (here, about 4-11). This week, new proposals will introduce a foreign language and more complex mathematical concepts from an earlier age, and whilst this is met by applause from many, there are others who are concerned that it removes the freedom of childhood (unfavourable comparisons being made to Scandinavian countries who start formal education much later) or that it prejudices against those who do not come to school with the basic 'building blocks' of literacy and numeracy concepts in place.

If you read this blog, you know I spend quite a bit of time musing over what makes a 'good' childhood - one which allows the child freedom to discover and explore life at his or her own pace, and to have a delight in learning. Paradoxically, through our home-education child-centred approach, we are doing many of the things proposed in these newer curricula which are suggested to remove childhood freedom. Our boys are thriving as they learn Spanish songs and go to a lesson with a small group once a week. Most of the books they choose from the library are on science (my four year old loves 'experiments') or ancient history. We spend many hours wandering through woodlands, parks and meadows discussing the wildlife - both flora and fauna, the weather and geographical conditions encountered, the history of that part of the country, practicing our numeracy skills by counting different types of flower or bird and adding them together, and generally using each opportunity to build. Am I depriving them? Or rather, is it good to encourage a child to the level of their understanding?

As a young child, I spent many hours bored almost to tears in a classroom setting. My father decided to teach me calculus aged seven, just to see if I could do it. I had no fear. I had no appreciation that this was supposed to be a challenging concept, and mastered it with ease. Now, aged 37 I am attempting to learn some mathematical modelling techniques for the analysis of scientific data, and how I wish I had learnt this as a child. I know I would have mastered it then, whereas now I struggle and my brain feels sluggish.

I think the key is that there cannot be a one size fits all. My own experiences, and those of my boys, are tailored to the individual. You perhaps cannot expect every single five year old to be able to write and debug simple computer programmes. But many can do this. Similarly with foreign language learning, one could argue that in some regions of the country, five year olds are barely fluent in their mother tongue; however it is well established that the best age to start a second language is in early childhood, and I see that borne out in my own children as they sing along to their Spanish CD with little apparent difficulty.

Once more, I see a huge benefit in home education; that the depth, structure and pace can be tailored to the individual child, and to maximise the resources available at that time. And rather than being an academic hot-house of pressured targets and goals, I really believe that there is the freedom to enjoy childhood in all its freedom and fullness.