I think it is important to think carefully about choices we make in our lives, and choices that affect how we raise our children. If you are also home educating, you probably spend more time considering these things than many, and I may well be 'preaching to the choir'.
As we approach the start of a new year (and the start of a new academic year in most of the Southern Hemisphere), I've been thinking about what we do. Is there anything new we need to start? Has anything run its course? Are there any big gaps? Are there any areas which need a bit more work? Are there places where one child needs a bit more time and effort?
Rather than discuss specifics (that post will come), I would like to give some principles which help our family make decisions regarding day to day decisions:
1) Does this activity encourage us in our walk with God? Does it enable us to learn more about Him? There are many day to day activities which do so, although you might not realise it at first glance. Quickly thinking through a day, there are the obvious ones like Bible time, family worship, music (which overlaps), nature studies, biographies. Then there are those which help us understand more about the world God has placed us in - science, cooking, relationship building activities. There are things which build character traits, such as discipline (sport comes in here), attention to detail, concentration, listening, narration, description, use of imaginative language - these are skills and tools which enable us to appreciate more of God as revealed to us in His word, the Bible.
2) Does this activity discourage or distract us from our walk with God? Again, there are some things which might obviously fall into this category, whereas others may be more subtle. I think for Christian parents it is often those which are subtle that can be most damaging. I've previously considered my views on television (and referenced writings of others). Others whom I respect do not share my view here, but my concern is the subtle influences which are not immediately obvious. That is just one example.
3) What is my motivation for pursuing this? Why do I want my child to be doing X, Y or Z? Is it to gain essential skills (literacy, numeracy, linguistics, physical agility, etc)? Or is it to push them into an area where they may have success in the future? I think one has to be so careful here, as it is often difficult to work out what our motives are. However, at the same time I often read of 'helicopter parents', or the very focussed 'tiger parents' more prevalent in Asian societies, and of the long term adverse consequences these well-meaning approaches can have. My interpretation of some of these reports it that it is good to help our children focus and develop all the essential areas and any additional ones for which they show desire or aptitude. But at the same time, to keep coming back to the wellbeing of the child as central. At the end, what is our greatest desire for our children?
4) Do I feel a pressure to prove something as a homeschooling parent? I've considered elements of motivation in point 3, but I think a specific temptation for homeschooling parents may arise from skeptical attitudes of friends and family. I know I can feel this way at times. I can almost hear the voices of some of these people telling me that 'if only you put them in a normal school, then A, B or C would not be a problem'. At times I also feel a need to prove that our methods are working. Whilst one of the major benefits in homeschooling is that each child can progress at their own pace, and there is no pressure to have achieved specific targets by specific ages, many of us were brought up under systems where they only way something could be proven was through tests and targets. The fallacy of this is that any home educating parent will know how well their child is progressing, what his strengths and weaknesses are, and not need to constantly test. Indeed, a major reason for governments reliance on testing is large class sizes, insufficient individual attention and frankly not knowing the individual child; it is not for the child's benefit that the testing is done. But even knowing this, we must beware of the temptation to try and prove.
The Bible has much to say about our motivations, and I find it helpful to prayerfully consider my choices in the light of some of these exhortations:
'Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ' Philippians 1:27
'Search me Oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offence in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'. Psalm 139
'If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.' James 1:5
- 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.