Spring is here and, for those of us that homeschool, spring includes the madness and chaos of planning for next year. Catalogs fill the mailbox, conferences inspire our hearts, evaluations of a year passed guide us toward our goals for the following year.
It’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of choices.
It’s easy to forget why we chose this path.
It’s easy to just tag along with the cultural flow and do what everyone else is doing because we just can’t imagine our kid not keeping up with other kids his age.
It’s easy to approach our educational philosophy a bit unintentionally.
But being intentional is so important when our children’s hearts are at stake. Because it’s not just about reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. It’s about character and morals and citizenship. It’s about growing this unique little being into the person he was created to be.
The educator and philosopher Charlotte Mason tells us that ““Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life.––We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room,’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” (Vol. 3, pp. 170, 171) (emphasis mine).
So not only are we expected to educate our child in the traditional sense of the word, but we’re expected to plant a seed in him that sprouts a love for learning, a thirst for knowledge. We’re expected to lead him toward a full life. A life that is good and worthy and whole.
That’s a heavy responsibility. One that can’t be approached casually.
If we simply look to the public school system as our guide, we are missing the entire spiritual realm of education. Our children become well versed in grammar rules, mathematical concepts and reading skills, perhaps, but we completely leave their soul out of the equation. We cheat them out of an education that forms their character, guides their morals and establishes the principles that will lead them in all the days ahead. As we are mind, body and soul, we cannot overlook the formation of their very beings. Charlotte Mason advised us to: “Look on education as something between the child’s soul and God. Modern Education tends to look on it as something between the child’s brain and the standardized test.”
So how do we intentionally approach our homeschool plan? Surely, we muse, there is a curriculum that comes wrapped in a box with a pretty bow that covers everything we need.
If only it were that simple.
Unfortunately, it takes deep thought and reflection to guide us in our decisions. It requires a map of sorts to guide us in our curriculum and book choices. It requires intentional thought about where we want our children to be after 12 years of home education.
We must begin with a broad plan. An intentional philosophy, so to speak.
Grab a pen, some beautifully lined paper and a cup of tea.
Now imagine your child as an adult. What do you want for him? I’m guessing you don’t want him depressed, on drugs, collecting welfare, barely paying the rent of a run-down shack, yelling at his girlfriend to tend to the baby.
Surely you want him to be well adjusted, morally sound, guided by his principles and ethics.
You want him to find pleasure in the simple things of life, right? The feel of a spring day on his cheeks, the anticipation of reading the next chapter in a well-loved book, the delight of a walk through the neighborhood.
You want him to love his life, just as it is at that moment in time whether it’s surrounded by books in a library as he studies for his finals or backpacking through Europe exploring all the places he read and dreamed about in his childhood. Or maybe he’s already settled in a job having made the choice not to go to college and he’s passionate about what he does and determined to make a go of it. Or perhaps he has settled down with his sweetheart and they’re navigating the waters of married life but he’s not discouraged because he knows that this is just part of the journey and he’s full of hope and determination.
You want him to have hobbies that enrich his life, hobbies that help him find beauty, truth and goodness in the crazy, chaotic world, I’m sure.
You want him to feel the power of education at his fingertips, knowing that knowledge is just a book away.
Maybe you want him to have a solid personal relationship with his Creator or at least a solid foundation just in case he wanders a bit.
I’m quite sure you want him to grasp the basics of math and budgeting and fiscal responsibility, lest he find himself knee deep in debt without hope of loosening the master’s hold.
You probably want him to be well versed in American history and liberties so that if his freedom is ever at stake, he knows exactly what that means and just how far he is willing to go to retain those liberties.
I know you well enough to know that you have other dreams for him. Mine might be quite different from yours so I hesitate to share anymore wanderings here with you lest my guide become more of a checklist. I promise to share my own goals for our homeschool with you soon, but I want to allow you some time to ruminate over the thoughts I have shared here.
So take some time this week. Put down the catalogs and stop browsing the web. Mull over the big ideas. The broad plan. You can’t choose a curriculum until you’ve given the long term goals some serious, intentional thought. Put your thoughts down on paper. Feel free to come back and share some of your thoughts here.