March 5, 2012

The School of Life

The American Magazine cover, April 1907
"Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire."
~William Butler Yeats

The decision to homeschool is a monumental one-- and not for most of the reasons some people think.

I was reminded of this the other day, when I read a fascinating e-book on education by an author I admire. I agreed with many of his points, but I found myself quite irritated by his insistence that homeschooling is HARD, that it's expensive, or that only the most intelligent, dedicated, amazing parents do it. I was really disturbed by his flippant dismissal of the enormous homeschooling movement as a real solution to America's educational problems.

I believe that homeschooling is not a method of education-- rather, I believe it is a whole new way of living. When we homeschool, we come to see our lives and the entire world as an opportunity to learn. And what's more, homeschooling parents and their children have a passion for learning that lasts their whole lives long!

What could be better for education than that?

Learning is a Lifestyle

In the culture of homeschooling, many times we worry about what our kids are learning. But seeing it in the bigger picture, we are doing more than just teaching academics to our children; we give daily instruction on what it means to be mothers, fathers, readers, writers, homemakers, and more. As homeschooling parents, we give our children the most accurate picture and understanding of what real life has in store for them. The classroom can never, ever teach the day-to-day lessons that people need to be successful and happy in life. This is not a harsh judgement or criticism; schools are simply not equipped with what everyday life lessons require!

But homes and families are ready and able to teach such lessons.

So much time in the modern classroom is spent sitting and waiting, not talking, following instructions and learning the system of school. Students learn the skills of taking tests, standing in lines, and only leaving their seats when permission is given. Academics are (usually) taught, and classroom discipline-- as it applies to that teacher, that year-- is reinforced every day.

In a homeschool, academics and discipline are also be taught. (Usually more efficiently, due to the smaller parent-to-teacher ratio.) But so can housework, spirituality, sibling relations, home economy, finances, testimony, baby care, health, cleanliness, honesty, etc.. The list is as different and varied as every family culture!

It has been my experience that children learn best from real life situations-- good and bad.

For example, any homeschooling mother who has ever had a baby knows that there are times when academics take a backseat or a smaller role as the family adjusts to a new family member. But the time is not lost-- it is better spent because of this "interruption!" The children in such homes learn lessons about unselfishness and sacrifice while caring for a new baby, helping a tired mother, and adjusting to new family dynamics. They see how their efforts are needed, and realize how important their help is to the whole family. (For more on lessons learned from new babies, read this Classic homeschooling article by the wonderful Diane Hopkins.)

Time Well Spent

In a homeschool family, everyday experiences become lessons. Because there is no division between the different parts of life, everything learned becomes one continual whole. Academics are not segregated from cooking, cleaning, and family relations. And because learning is not separated from life, it becomes a way of living. Excitement for new experiences and knowledge become an every day part of the family environment. There are few things as enjoyable and exciting as discussing ideas, thoughts, theories, and principles as a family!

As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, "in family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e." Homeschooling is a wonderful avenue for spending precious time with our children! I feel so blessed to have my children around me almost every day. I know their wants, their needs, their concerns, and their dreams. Working on family relationships is something that happens for most of the hours in every day.

As the mother of an eighteen year old, I am also painfully aware of how short the time is that we have our children in our homes. When I was a young mother, I admit I rolled my eyes at the suggestion that I would "miss the days" when my children were small. But now that I have several who are getting ready to "leave the nest" in succession, I am so grateful for the time I have had with each one of them over the years-- time that I can never have back.

I have great peace in my heart, knowing that I have given my children all the hours and days that a mother could teach, love, and nurture them.

What could be a better education than that?

Rachel is the happy mother of eleven children between the ages of 18 and 20 months old. Now in her thirteenth year of homeschooling, she continues to be an enthusiastic advocate for Thomas Jefferson Education principles and has spoken at several homeschool and TJEd conferences. She enjoys Shakespeare, teaching, writing, designing and sewing Renaissance costumes, and both singing and reading with her family. She blogs at Thoughts From The Hearth and at Old Fashioned Motherhood.

4 comments - Add a comment below -:

Regina said...

Love you post !

Here in Germany Homeschooling is not allowed at all and you have to send your kids to school or pay high penalties and finally be sent to prison.

But as school almost only is from 8-13 o´clock a STAHM can take the rest of the day to offer and teach her children exactly what you describe.

I´m so glad I could stay at home with my 5 children and teach them those extremely important lessons of life that school doesn´t provide.

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing! I was trained as an elementary school teacher in college and taught for a couple of years before I had my first born. I made the mistake of trying to replicate the classroom the first couple of years of homeschooling. Honestly I would try to do it for a while and notice that we were both tiring of it and change to a more natural way and we would thrive. Then I would feel like "we need more structure" and I would try again and then notice we were tiring again. After a couple of times of this I slowly learned the lesson God was trying to teach me in that the way public school is taught is NOT the most efficient way for a lifelong love of learning, which is what I was trying to instill. After that I tried to keep my motto "A house of learning" and changed my way of doing things. I've been tempted to go back to a more structured method every now and then but I try to remind myself of past experiences and realize that the path we're on may be different than most but it fufills my children's needs and is the one I have been led to. :)

Mama Rachel said...

Thanks for your insightful comments, ladies!

And Regina, my hat goes off to you in all your concentrated efforts to give your children a love of learning! :)

Deila Taylor said...

wow, that comment about Germany made me thankful that our country has not gone that way yet. But glad to know you were able to supplement. I have to agree with the post, I used to try to be so strict, but realized that learning at home is different, and better. we do learn all the time, talking and sharing. of course we get through the math and other subjects, but it is different than "school" That's why it works for us.