June 27, 2011

Education Starts at Home

I have two great passions in my life.  Two things outside of raising my children and caring for my family that I feel like I am called to do.

The first is how strongly I feel about motherhood and the role of women.  I feel like women who embrace their nature and welcome motherhood and femininity find far more joy than those who don't and also have far more influence and power in the world than those who pursue influence and power.

My second great passion is how strongly I feel about the importance of a proper education.  As homeschooling mothers, we all support the ideology that the best education can be found in the comfort of your own home surrounded by loved ones rather than within the walls of a formal institution.  So when I say "education", I do not mean a degree.

It has only been in the last day or so that I have come to the conclusion that these two great passions are not two, but one great passion.  For a woman cannot fully reach her potential nor can she fully wield the full influence of her power without an education.

Not long ago I wrote a post referencing the change that has happened in me as a result of our decision to homeschool.  I spoke of the ever increasing desire to further my own education and the joy I have felt in the process of doing so.

It was a little over a year ago, when I first made the decision to seriously pursue a true self-directed education, I was so far behind the curve that I doubt I would have been able to pass a middle school standardized test.  I had tried before, but had failed miserably.  But armed with a quiver fill of homeschool mom tactics I was pretty sure I could be successful this time.  I applied to myself the same principles that I apply to my children when they are learning something new or difficult.  I start from the beginning.  I keep it simple.  I give them some easy wins.

So for me, I started with children's literature and my daughter's fourth grade math book.  I read historical fiction.  I listened to biographies and other audiobooks from the library while I cleaned my kitchen or exercised.  When I read something deeper and more complex, I kept it short (essays under 50 pages).  Before not too long, I found myself eyebrow deep and completely enthralled in books that, a few months before, I wouldn't have even looked at on the shelf (ok, I wouldn't have even walked in that half of the book store).  A few weeks ago I finished a 1000+ page book filled with economic philosophy I actually laughed out loud at how different my reading habits are. (don't be too impressed, it was a very enjoyable work of fiction).

I almost wish I could go back in time and tell my a few years younger self what she had to look forward to.  She would have laughed in my face and given me the latest young adult best seller to read.

If I have learned one thing over the last year, it is this: an education is one of the most important things that we can obtain in this life.

Doctrine and Covenants 130: 18-19 says:

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

Those who follow the TJED model for our homeschooling already know how important it is to focus on "me, not them".  In other words.  If you are committed to educating yourself, than your children will follow your example.

Now for me and my house, we need to alter the TJED model a little bit to get it to work.  But this post isn't about the values of TJED.  This post is about how important it is for us mothers to be educated and involved and how important it is that we make it a priority.

We mothers are constantly overlooked, under appreciated and under estimated by the outside world.  Sadly, I can understand why.  The more I learn the more frustrated I get with my peers and their complacent and oblivious attitudes (I'm especially frustrated because I know exactly what they are thinking as I once thought like that).  I recently suggested reading Shakespeare for Relief Society book group.  Oh the weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth from some of these sisters!  There was just no desire for personal growth.

Satan has targeted us.  He is distracting us from the truth with recipes, patterns and DIY home decor.  Why has he done this?  Be cause the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.

Our world is out of control.  It's out of control because mothers around the globe have forfeited their birthright in exchange for riches and worldly approval.

I know that I'm preaching to the choir here.  You, like me, have seen the deterioration of our society and you also have been clinging to the Gospel as the only source of truth and sanity.

But back to my point.  We have been told to get an education.  But not just so that we can teach our children and it is not just for our benefit in the next life.  An education is for us.  We have to know what is going on now so that we can have influence and freedom in this life.  I truly believe that mothers are the key.  As I said before, Satan has targeted us because of the influence and power we have.

It doesn't take much.  All you have to do is want to have the desire.  Many a book I would pick up, knowing that I should read it but not really wanting to.  But I wanted to be the kind of person who enjoyed learning.  And you know what?  Sometimes "fake it 'till you make it" works.  It was not easy.  Not only was the material harder than I was used too, but I had TV shows that I wanted to watch.

My life has completely changed.  I can't tell you how different I feel.  And amazingly enough, the Lord has blessed me with more time to pursue worthy interests than I ever had while pursuing worldly interests (seriously, how do you expect to find personal fulfillment in weekly manicures and shopping?).

Have you ever thought "You know someone should...".  Well I've been thinking for the last several months that someone should find a way to encourage more mothers to learn.  I just wish that there was some way that I could transfer my love of learning to others.  Well, I've decided that if I can't find someone to support in encouraging moms to learn, I'm going to do it myself.  I'm in the process of creating just such a place for us mothers.  I want to not only inspire other mothers to educate themselves but also to show them just how much power and influence women and mothers have.  There is no such thing as "just" a stay at home mom.  There is nothing ordinary about being a woman or a mother.   We are extraordinary.  We literally hold the future in our arms.  But if we aren't active and involved in the present, the future that we have made for our children won't be nearly as bright and beautiful as we had hoped.

Courtney is an overly scheduled, overly stressed, overly sleep deprived and overly blessed homeschooling mom.  She has been married to the greatest (and best looking) man for nine years and has loved every minute of it (almost).  She has two girls, ages eight and six, and two boys ages four years and 1 year.  She is in her third year of homeschooling and has decided there is no way she is going back.  Courtney knows it is selfish of her, but she feels that her children are entirely too much fun for someone else to enjoy their company all day long while she can't.  Courtney apologizes if this post is long winded and rambling.  She tends to feel very passionately about things and has a hard time ever shutting up.  You can find more of her and her musings over at My Ordinary, Every Day, Happily Ever After.

21 comments - Add a comment below -:

Jennifer said...

I think this is a great post and I definitely agree with you, but I don't think being interested in "recipes and DIY home decor" is the work of Satan unless you are committing ALL your time to that. As Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "...find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them." I think learning to cook nice meals for your family or frugally beautifying your home would qualify, and both are things I personally enjoy.

Evenspor said...

Nice article. Thanks for the reminder that continually educating ourselves is just as important as educating our children.

Dana ♥ said...

That is what I consider a fruit of homeschooling. There is something about sparking the flame of learning in a child that rekindles our own.

Jean said...

"For a woman cannot fully reach her potential nor can she fully wield the full influence of her power without an education."

I think that's very true. An educated mother will be able to teach and influence her children so much more. And, did you know, children's educational attainments usually match the mother's, not the father's?

When my husband and I first got married, I wanted to go to grad school and get a master's degree in library science. My husband was so supportive of this goal, and I so appreciate that. He searched for work in Silicon Valley, near the university, so I could do that, and he supported me through it. At the time, he told me that he thought my education would be important for our children as well as for me. We didn't know then that we would end up homeschooling.

JRoberts said...

I 100% agree. All too often I think sometimes we get lazy in the education department. Not that we don't want to, or think we are too dumb, but just get caught up in being a Mom (or whatever). Education can take little or big steps. We can just start with a book or reading a post on something that is new to us. That love of learning is amazing. Excellent post.

Courtney Wilson said...


You are absolutely right, those things are fine and definitely uplifting and can contribute to family life. I subscribe to a fair amount of blogs that are dedicated to that genre. In addition to homeschooling, I am a digital scrapbook designer, I enjoy trying new recipes and I'm trying to learn to be a better seamstress.

Unfortunately I see too many women dedicating all of their time to those interests and not spending any time at all focusing on exercising their mind. Our mind is all we have in the end.

The purpose of this post was not to disparage the value of developing your gifts and interests, but to express the disservice we do to ourselves and our families if we ignore our own academic education (and by "academic" I don't mean at a formal institution, I'm speaking more of the subjects that are more traditionally taught in school, especially science, history and current events.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for elaborating :) And again, I really did love this post - educating myself more is something I've been thinking about for a while now, so thank you :)

Birrd said...

"Well I've been thinking for the last several months that someone should find a way to encourage more mothers to learn. I just wish that there was some way that I could transfer my love of learning to others."

How many of us moms had our love of learning squashed out of us in the public school system? I think that is a big part of the problem. They have no desire to learn because of negative experiences with "education." You're right, there has to be a way to reawaken their thirst for knowledge. I like your idea about starting at the beginning, keeping it simple, and giving easy wins. That's definitely something to think about. RS Book Group might balk at Shakespeare now, but they could work their way up to it starting with some children's classics and then moving to Jane Austen or something.

faux domestic diva said...

Hi…I'm a new follower, so not entirely sure what a TJED education is… do you have another post so I can catch up?

Courtney Wilson said...

TJED is short for Thomas Jefferson Education. It is an educational philosophy that follows the classical educational model. There are several "keys" to TJED including:

Classics, Not Textbooks
Mentors, Not Professors
Inspire, Not Require
Structure Time, Not Content
Simplicity, Not Complexity
Quality, Not Conformity
You, Not Them

You can get more specific details on www.tjed.org

To be perfectly honest I love TJED in my homeschool but logistically it doesn't totally work out in practice for us. I have a lot more structure than people usually think TJED people have, but I'm a fan.

It's a lot like Charlotte Mason in some ways but can be adapted to fit any style.

Courtney Wilson said...

Sometimes it can also look a lot like unschooling, but it doesn't the way we do it.

Liz said...

Great article. Thanks for putting the time and effort into this, Courtney, you are a wonderful inspiration. I can't wait to see what it is you are putting together.

Eve said...

Wonderful post!

If I had not chosen to homeschool our children, I think that this post would be confusing. I find many LDS mothers that I know think that "having an education" equals a college degree and/or outside work or else you just spend time reading novels and watching TV.

I like that there is a middle area where learning and growth are possible while raising children, without having to leave our young ones to complete a college degree.... or just "give up" altogether.

This past year I have discovered powerofmoms.com and formed a Learning Circle with sisters in my ward. It's been a fantastic way to learn more about aspects of motherhood and discuss ideas with other Moms interested in self-improvement. I wonder if this would be something that would be of interest to you, as well.

Best wishes in your endeavors--I find it so refreshing to "meet" another Mom who feels this way too about continuing to learn! The knowledge is the gift and a reward.

The Reader said...

I too am very interested in this. I'm reading A Well Educated Mind buy Susan Wise Bauer. It's all about getting the classical education you never got. My plan is while I'm homeschooling my kids to be working on the content for the next year myself so I'm prepared to teach. I would love to participate in your venture. - veryberrybagel at gmail dot com

The Reader said...

I too am very interested in this. I'm reading A Well Educated Mind buy Susan Wise Bauer. It's all about getting the classical education you never got. My plan is while I'm homeschooling my kids to be working on the content for the next year myself so I'm prepared to teach. I would love to participate in your venture. -Jill

Heather B said...

EXCELLENT article! Loved it!

Erin said...

I agree mostly. Continuing education is important and fulfilling. However, I don't think we should judge our sisters who like to get manicures and decorate their homes so harshly. I'm sure they're fellowshipping or doing other good things, and just because they don't want to read shakespeare doesn't mean they don't want to improve themselves.

And I do like the scripture you shared, but I think it doesn't necessarily mean knowing a lot of facts about our world. In D&C 93:36 it says "The glory of god is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth." So those who gain light and truth through diligence and obedience will have the advantage, not necessarily someone who can win at jeopardy. Even people who are of humble worldly educations can have an advantage over the incredibly smart by obedience to the light and truth they are given.

It is great for those of us with opportunities to educate ourselves in this life to do so, but I don't think it's our worldly knowledge that's going to give us the advantage.

Jana said...

Thanks Courtney for your courage to put this out there. There is so much strength in good women! I am so happy to see more women embracing the idea that they CAN teach their families.

I have flip flopped between public and home school and feel a definite change in myself when I am homeschooling. I am curious. I want to learn. I find opportunities to learn everywhere! My perspectives change regarding what is important to learn about as well. I am a much better student when I am teaching.

And I agree with you Erin, light and truth encompasses more than academia. "...if we have not charity, we are nothing." It is a careful dance to not get smug, self-righteous, or judgemental when we've found a better way- just like with our knowledge of the Gospel being God's one true church on the earth. Its hard not to use the same rubric on others that we use on ourselves. Thank goodness God is a fair 'grader'.

Everyone- from Shakespeare to Sister DIY- has something to teach us if we let the Spirit guide our quest for knowledge.

And as we show our sisters that we love to learn by wanting to know what they know and sharing with them the good things we are learning, that thirst for knowledge will become infectious. If you are looking to have others join the ranks, enthusiasm -not intellectual snobbery- will be the way to light the fire for this matriarchal revolution.

Anaise said...

I'm really glad to read Erin's and Jana's comments. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to organize my thoughts to be able to respond to this post only to find that these two women were able to say what I wanted to say ahead of me! I enthusiastically second their statements that "light and truth encompass more than academia." Some of the best people I know--the people I really and truly want to be like--read the scriptures and the occasional escape fiction novel and . . . not much else. But they are educated in the pure love of Christ and they are shining examples of it. I am thankful for good books and the opportunity to introduce my children to good books, but even as I hope they will be readers and educate themselves well, I hope even more that they will grow up to be kind, gentle, powerful followers of Christ. I hope I become one, too!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

Sometimes we forget in the thick of motherhood that our education is still going on and we need to find a good balance of everything that education encompasses - including academics as well as other good things.

The Lord has already told us what we need to learn! This is one of my favorite scriptures about education AND my role as a mother.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80:

"77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—"

If you break those verses down you find we are to learn among other things: law of the gospel, astronomy (in heaven), biology, physics, chemistry, botany (in the earth), geology, mineralogy and other sciences (under the earth), history (things which have been), current events (things which are), emergency preparedness (things which must shortly come to pass), homemaking - cooking, cleaning, decorating, hospitality, sewing, etc (things which are at home) politics, humanities, social sciences (things which are abroad, wars, perplexities of nations), cultural awareness and government (knowledge of countries and kingdoms). The list goes on and on!

And what reason does the Lord give for us knowing these things?

"80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."

So I can magnify my calling and mission as a woman (which encompasses wife, mother, sister, aunt, etc)! Love it!

Jessica said...

I love what you said Jana. I couldn't have put it better. That is actually just what I needed to hear. Thank you for your comment to this great post and putting it all into a Christlike perspective.