We read these quotes the other night and my heart just warmed within me. They were brought to mind again today as my daughter quietly looked over her science pages for the day. How dry facts and dates and monotonous explanations of how things work can be. How extraordinary and delightful the journey of discovery where a child can find the study of atoms and molecules not dry and boring, but fascinating! The motto of our curriculum is; “The way you wish you’d been taught. Guaranteed.” Oh, how it’s proven true time and time again.
“…Grandpa March cultivated the little mind with the“Boys at other schools probably learned more from books, but less of that better wisdom which makes good men. Latin, Greek, and mathematics were all very well, but in Professor Bhaer's opinion, self knowledge, self-help, and self-control were more important, and he tried to teach them carefully.”
tender wisdom of a modern Pythagoras, not tasking it with long, hard lessons, parrot-learned, but helping it to unfold as naturally and beautifully as sun and dew help roses bloom.”
Jo’s Boys, Life at Plumfield.
My daughter makes a knowing exclamation as she reads about how atoms are made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. At no time is the word H20 referenced. She looks up with her eyes shining and says; “I think I know why water is called H20.”
“Oh?” I say.
“Yes. The H stands for hydrogen, the 2 stands for 2 Hydrogen atoms and the O stands for 1 oxygen atom.”
“That’s exactly right.” I smile.
No one had to tell her bare facts, she deduced it herself with a brain that has been taught to unveil facts and truths by observation and discovery.
And for the record, my eyes lit up with their own wonderful discovery as I read over her lesson as well. Did you know that the number of atoms within ONE grain of sand is comparable to the grains of sand on an entire beach?
Our Kids are Disciples, Not Missionaries… Yet.
This post is my personal defense of a common argument *against* home schooling.Touching on the argument "Christian kids belong in public school because if we take all the Christian kids out of school who is going to be salt and light to the non-Christian kids?" This argument doesn't cut it with me for a number of reasons.
1. It blurs the purpose of public school just like the socialization issue does. SCHOOL is about education. It has been made into so much more, but it's fundamental and founding purpose was to educate our children in the 3 R's. SCHOOL is not a mission field for Christian kids. It's not a battlefield for them to fight out their burgeoning faith amongst the waves of secularism, humanism and materialism that run rampant in our society. When kids are *in* school, it can become both of those things for them, and sometimes for their benefit. But this was not an adequate argument to convince us that we should place our children in public school. Life is a mission field. The world is a battle field. Our every step as believers in this humanist, secular, materialistic world is a struggle and victory. The argument sounds spiritual, the great commission and all, but it completely misses the point that children are *part* of the great commission, not the ones commissioned to carry it out. Christian kids are not commissioned to be missionaries. Christian parents are commissioned to disciple their own children.
2. It insinuates that any family that chooses to homeschool doesn't have the same opportunity or passion to be salt and light. I get my hackles up when I hear people criticize homeschooling parents for robbing their kids of the chance to “grow up” and “face the world” and be “light in the darkness.” We desire our children to be salty and bright in this stagnant and dark world just as much, if not more as the next person. It is our inherent desire for them, and our prayer each day as we bend over backwards to work to train them and go about life with them. Public school is not the be all and end of all of opportunity for Christian witness. On the contrary, I think it often contributes to "busy-ing" people to the point of robbing them sometimes of more valuable opportunities to be salt and light in natural, simple, down home living. But that's beside the point. Public schooled or home schooled is not the issue here, being a light wherever you walk, whoever you interact with is.
We are not home 24/7, we live in this world too, we spend time with our neighbors, make trips to town, reach out to people with kids our age. And I watch my kids and I see them being salt and light. As for me, no I am not as free to run around and socialize day in and day out. But this blog has been such an encouragement to me that I don't need to be "out there" to be salt and light. I can be here, being me, doing what He has called me to do, and He can choose to use that in any number of ways. Just the fact that on any given day 70-200 people visit this blog, comment, email me or stop me in the street (this always gives me a bit of a jolt but I love it) to tell me how my words either challenged them or brought them joy, encouragement, peace or blessing shows me that God will use me where I'm at. And God will use my kids where they are at, which is usually at this point somewhere in my general vicinity. I may not be a soccer mom or supervising public school trips, but I am interacting with so many people from my community and beyond, believers and non, every day on levels that would be very difficult to achieve just passing someone in a hallway as we drop our kids off at school or sitting on the sidelines at a soccer practice. And my kids are part of this.
3. Along the same lines, there seems to be this underlying and sincere belief that "if I just put myself here or there, in public school, supervising this activity, accompanying my child to this or that activity" I will be putting myself in the position to cross someone's path and minister to them. I used to struggle with this big time. I knew that God was calling me to not join the rat race of enrolling our kids in overscheduled organized sports or activities that required excessive time commitments on our part. But if we didn't do these things how on earth could we ever be salt and light? We would never have opportunity to interact with all those other parents running their rat race. I've come to see this as a huge farce. Prairie Guy and I have discussed how rare it is to even have a meaningful spiritual discussion with fellow believers when you are in the same public venue, never mind unbelievers. Those are generally not the times and places that this kind of heart to heart interaction takes place (not saying it never happens). Neither is public school. I am sure that I have had deeper and more meaningful spiritual interaction with people that God brought into my path in His own timing and way here in my own home, or as I run my necessary errands, than I ever would trying to "put" myself out there in the midst of everyone else running the rat race. 3 minutes of ordained conversation, orchestrated from above, is worth oodles more than 3 hours of bleacher or poolside banter. So much attention is given to "establishing a connection" through this superficial type of "hanging", but I am with Henry Blackaby on this one... God is the one at work to draw people to Himself, He will start the drawing, and He will invite us to enter into what *He* is already doing, the work that *He* has already begun. We don't have to make ourselves busy looking for opportunities or trying to intersect Him. We need to put our heart out there and let Him make the appointment and keep our eyes and ears open to be able to recognize it when IT COMES ALONG.
4. It tends to overlook the fact that kids are disciples, not apostles. The whole salt and light argument is a straw man argument, because the fact of the matter is that as Christians, we ARE salt and light just by breathing. At least we should be. It's our job to make sure we are. It's not a job of "discipling" other people, it's a job of walking in the fruit in every situation. My kids are no less salt and light to non-Christian kids just because they don't spend 6 hours a day with them. The time they do spend with them, is their time to shine. It's quality, not quantity. As disciples, their role is one of careful observer and copying of their teacher's (the parent's) training. We look to Jesus and how he interacted with his disciples to be our example to how we should disciple our children. Jesus was WITH his disciples the majority of the time. He sent them off here and there and gave them opportunity to spread their wings, but it doesn't change the fact that the majority of the time they were physically present with him observing Him and learning from His example. We are ordered to carefully train and disciple our children, not to send our children out into the role of discipling others.
5. It ignores the stats. Statistics show that Christian kids are more negatively affected by their non-Christian peers than vice-versa. Recent American studies show that 3 out of 5 Christian kids range from complete apathy to outright rejection of their childhood faith upon graduation and stepping into independence. Now, I am in no way blaming this on public school. The research analyzers don't blame it on schooling. They blame it on parenting. As I've said before, I believe it is an extremely difficult job to disciple your children adequately when they are spending more time under the influence of others (public school teachers, coaches, peers, even leaders of good Christian programs) than they are spending with YOU. How much of an impact do we, who are called to train them, expect to have when we are running in all directions, don't see our school age children all day and then one or the other of child or parent is running in separate directions for activities 3-5 evenings a week? Even secular psychologists are urging families of the importance to a child's and family's health and well being to "slow down", "eat together", "less action more interaction".
6. It seems to scoff in the face of the months (in our case years) of careful examining, analyzing, observing, praying with blood, sweat and tears home schooling parents have spent before making their decision. It treats a very difficult choice that some of us believe to be our duty and calling in order to raise kids who truly are salt and light, with almost a superiority and a snub nosed reaction that implies "how will your kids ever learn to persevere? how can your kids ever be a testimony? how will they ever learn to mature in their faith and life if they aren't sent out on their own?" These implied comments cut to my very soul and wound. Because our first and foremost calling and ambition (and indeed part of the reason we choose to homeschool) as parents is to
- teach our kids to persevere (just because they aren't in public school doesn't mean they don't have ample opportunity to be taught this)
- teach our kids to be a testimony (public school is not the only place people can testify), first and foremost they must have the foundation and faith and fruit that produces good testimony.
- raise mature, thoughtful, independent, free thinking adults (why on earth sending them to public school would be necessary to accomplish this is beyond me. They have ample opportunities every day in life to be challenged and tested and spread their wings. )
In order for our children to be salt and light, they need to be seeped in salt and light. Is it possible to do this when your children are public schooled? Yes. My argument is not and has never been against people who send their kids to public school. Heaven knows many children have graduated public school, and been parented well, and turned into strong, upstanding believers. The struggles they face there *can* serve to make them strong, sometimes. My only argument is that public schooling believers should not discount homeschooling as a valid, honorable, obedient, and support worthy choice for Christian parents seeking to raise a generation of adults passionate about God and His kingdom. We are playing on the same team, we care fervently about being salt and light in the world. To have someone dismiss that important and personal choice with arguments that are near and dear to your heart is so frustrating and disheartening.
As Christian we are called to spur one another on to good works, encourage one another as we seek to honor God in our daily lives. This doesn't look the same for all of us. It doesn't HAVE to look the same for all of us. I don't look down on parents who send their kids to public school by any means. I look UP to them (the ones who are intentionally discipling their kids at least). They have their work cut out for them. But so do we.
In the end, it's not about homeschooled or public schooled. It's about how kids are parented. Passionate and intentional parenting is the key, not where a child sits to learn the 3 R's.
Real Books. Rich Literature=A Love for Learning.
I secretly smile when people's eyes glaze over at the idea of homeschooling. The preparation, the work, the dedication, the organization, the time commitment, the personal sacrifice that flashes before their eyes.... I seriously find it hard to suppress a smile. Let me set the record straight here once and for all, at least about our own experience.
I love to read.
I love to learn.
I love to discuss what I am learning.
I love to find ways to apply what I am learning.
I love to be with my kids who also love to read, love to learn, love to discuss and apply what they are learning.
In other words, homeschooling is really a great excuse to sit around reading and yacking with my kids all day and call it work =)
Now, why Sonlight? Ah, just the name makes me feel all cheery and warm inside. Why Sonlight. Because;
Sonlight uses real books,
instills a love for learning,
exposes us to diverse angles of any given topic in an unbiased fashion so that;
we always have LOTS to discuss,
facilitates conscientious application of what we are learning and
is set up in a way that draws us together for hours and hours of every day to do the things we love most.
Some of you have asked me about "real" books. What does that mean, and how do they contribute to a richer and deeper education? I'm going to quote directly (with some personal emphasis, because I am an emphasis aficionado) out of the Sonlight catalogue, because whoever wrote the following article had a lot more time on their hands than I do to devote to this subject, and sums it up so perfectly that I see no reason to re-invent the wheel. The following quotes are taken from page 142 of the 2008 Sonlight Catalog.
"When history "comes alive," your kids remember more of what they study. With other educational media, and most especially textbooks, students don't read stories. They read reports about subjects. In fact, textbooks seem less like books, and more like "storage space" for dump truck loads of facts- as many facts as possible. There's just one problem: they leave out all the drama. The conflict, the context, the emotion, the story- so there is nothing left to attract the interest and attention of student readers.
Sonlight, by contrast, with its "real books" approach, brings you right "there" to see, feel and hear what happened- even if it was 2000 years ago. With the kinds of books Sonlight carries, you get to experience history. They draw you into the story so that all the things traditional textbooks and classroom materials tell you you're supposed to memorize... you memorize "coincidentally". You can't help remembering the names of the key characters, the places they go, the events they participate in. Somehow, when you are caused to feel something, emotionally, about a person or event, you seem never to forget. The images and experiences are forever imprinted on your mind.
When you enjoy reading your school books, when one of your favorite things to do each day is to read the books that are part of your curriculum, and when the books themselves make it easy for you to remember your lessons, you've got the easiest learning process possible."
And having taught this curriculum for 5 years straight, I can heartily endorse the truth behind these words. Learning is not a “task”. It’s an adventure!