Part 3: Whose responsibility is it?

So far in this blog series, we have discussed what education is exactly and what makes an education fitting. In this third and final post in this series, I am going to be speaking to us as parents. I’ve been looking forward to this post, because this is where my passions lie – I love to encourage people and help them move forward. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my experience and heart and watching a burden lift from the stooped shoulders of a young mom, who reminds me so much of myself in the early days of this journey.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not yet, but this journey we have chosen to traverse with our families is not an easy one. It is one that can be full of joy and great reward, but those do not come without great sacrifice and a lot of hard work.

In this article, I am going to be speaking with you about responsibility. I want this to be encouraging and enlightening, so if there is anything that you need to take care of in order to be able to focus and soak in the words I have for you, please go and take care of it now. I’ll be right here when you get back. 🙂

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I know from experience just how easy it is for us as homeschooling parents to HEAP on the weight of what we feel is our responsibility. Pretty soon it’s all we can do to drag ourselves through the day – each step pushing us through the sticky dining room floor.

If you are at all like me, you have wondered what exactly it means to take the yoke of Jesus – I mean, I’m all for having a “light burden” and an “easy yoke,” but quite honestly, my shoulders were already full with what I had been told was my responsibility.

Lift your heads, mommas, lay down your burden, and come rest at our Savior’s feet, because… 

Most of what we tell ourselves is our responsibility ISN’T. Plain and simple.

Those closest to me know that I am, by nature, a burden bearer. I am intuitive, sensitive, protective, and extremely invested in the lives of my husband and children. It’s been a long road and one that I’m still walking, learning about letting God be God. As I have grown in my relationship with Him, I have learned to trust Him more and more.

He is teaching me that these areas are my responsibility:

  • Take care of my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, and my own physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
  • Be in tune with what God wants me to teach these children – they are His before they are mine, and He has the plan for their lives.
  • Bend my own knee, lay down my own pride/agenda, and open my hands to God’s will and work in myself and in my family members.
  • Facilitate in the learning process of my children, training them to love Jesus, encouraging them to own their education and stretch their abilities.

Here are just a few lessons that I am learning along the way. Maybe one or two of them will resonate with you!

  • My children learn more from watching me than they will ever learn from any curriculum. 
  • God doesn’t expect me to be a perfect parent, but He does expect me to live surrendered to His work in my life. This is the most effective way of showing my kids how great and merciful their Heavenly Father is.
  • I need to strategically pray for my kids. Not just a generic “cover it all!” type of prayer, but an actual battle plan. 
  • I have to fight the urge to bubble wrap. Protection is good. Hiding is bad.
  • I need to remember that education is a journey and not one that we are going to complete in the 18 years that we have our kids under our roof. God promises to complete the work in their lives.
  • I am not God. I cannot change anyone’s heart.

Did you notice that all of the responsibilities listed above have to do with ME being yielded to God’s plan not mine – not controlling, but training, coaching, guiding, facilitating, and encouraging?

This is the number one lesson I learned (am stilling learning!) through this whole process:

I have found that the responsibilities that He has given me come with matching strength to carry them. The burdens that I pile on myself do not. 

God’s plan for my kids is founded in pure love and His desire for a relationship with them.

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Next, let’s peer into their (our children’s) responsibilities.

I learned early on in our homeschool journey that I couldn’t learn for my kids. I could lesson plan and buy wonderful materials, but if one of my children decided that they were going to rebellious and not internalize or take personally any of the lessons, I could not make them learn. I also learned that I could control their behavior, but God is the only one Who could change their heart. That’s where the lesson in learning to pray came in.

Our children need to know that their education is to help them, not just make us happy so we will leave them alone. They  need to grow in their own faith, because they are going to have to choose whom they will serve.

Jeremiah 29-11

Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, but verses 12 and 13 are the key to verse 11. Go back up and read them slowly. Do you see it? God does have a plan, but unless our children learn to seek Him wholeheartedly, they aren’t going to discover what that plan is! 

Our children have to learn to train their ear to hear the voice of truth, take every thought captive, and know how to go to God for the plan for their lives. This is their most important responsibility. 

theirs!

Now, before I wrap up this article, I want to touch on what is God’s responsibility in this whole educational process.

Gods!

I love that I can always depend on God to be…

  • the  true teacher
  • the only One who can truly save our children
  • and the only One who knows exactly what each of us needs.

So, a fitting education is one that serves, fits, and prepares the student, it is an education that is based on giving our families a solid Biblical worldview, and it is an education that involves each of us taking on our rightful responsibilities.

I want to leave you with one final thought.

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In ancient days, the setting of this verse, arrows were carefully crafted by the warrior. They used only the best and strongest materials and they meticulously whittled each arrow to be perfectly balanced and the arrowhead razor-sharp.

This scripture speaks to both generations: the parents, depicted here as the warrior, and the children, depicted as the arrows.

This is the perfect picture of what a fitting education is – the forming of the arrows.

If this series has been encouraging to you, and you would like to pass it forward, please share it from the home page.

God bless you, my friend!

Part 2: A fitting education

In the previous post in this series, we chatted about how Charlotte Mason advocated giving the student a fitting education. But what is a fitting education for our student’s today?

For the sake of time and space, I have narrowed down my copious notes on the topic to these three main criteria for a fitting education.

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Let’s go ahead and unpack each of these a little, looking at both the spiritual and practical application aspects of each.

For an education to meet the most foundational human need of the student, it has to reach deep – past the physical brain, past the deeper part of the intellect that we call the mind, past the emotions. It has to reach all of the way down into the very center of who that student is, who God created them to be when He pressed His fingerprint into their parents’ DNA to make their completely unique being, with its equally unique purpose and design.

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An education that serves only the brain and intellect is missing most of the picture – it leaves the imprint of His fingerprint on our souls empty and longing to be filled. This knowing Him fully is what He created us for.

So, what is the practical application of this? How can we bring these high and lofty thoughts of our real purpose and design down to the bumpy road we all tread upon on a daily basis?
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We’ve all read this verse at least a hundred times. In fact, it’s probably so familiar to you that you just skimmed over the graphic above, in order to continue reading the article.  I want you to go back up and read it slowly, shaking off the familiarity and focusing on the meaning of each word. Do not move on with this article until you feel the command and the promise in these words.

To put it quite simply, an education that serves a student is going to be one that encourages, inspires, and guides them in learning how and why they must seek God first – it will teach them to train their ears to know the voice of truth and to take every thought captive.

If you don’t hear anything else I say here, please write this down in BIG lettering and hang it on your fridge – or coffee pot!

Worldview MATTERS! and worldview starts with our God view.

  • The way our students view God dictates how they see themselves and in turn, how they view the whole world around them.
  • A fitting education encourages the student to put their faith into action.
  • The Biblical worldview that they have developed enables to see the hurt and the lost around them. James 2:14 “What good is your faith?” Does it make a difference?

A fitting education SERVES the student by helping them to establish a firm foundation – a personal, growing relationship with a HUGE, steadfast, trust worthy, personal God. 

Practical tips for encouraging, inspiring, and guiding our children in pursuing their own relationship with God and intentionally establishing a Biblical worldview in our homes:

  • Small children should be encouraged to observe nature and creation around them. The Bible is full of wonderful verses that talk about how creation proclaims the greatness of God. Keeping a Charlotte Mason style nature journal, reading Biblically sound science and nature books, copying/memorizing nature themed Scripture and discussing how the attributes of God’s character are displayed all around us, is an incredibly easy (no artistic talent is required!) and an amazingly powerful tool in building your child’s critical observation and thinking skills. All the while they are internalizing the truth of God’s Word and the wonder of His creation. There is no easier way to teach our children to lift their eyes to the greatness of God than to teach them the skill of quiet observance of the miracles occurring all around them at all times. These observation skills will naturally overflow into other areas of their life. This is the observing stage.
  • As your children get older (mine were about 10 – 12 years old), start comparing secular worldviews with the Biblical one that you have established. Allow questions. Dig in yourself and help them find the answers! Help them to design a chart for your classroom/dining room wall. Add to it every time one of you discovers another discrepancy in the humanistic thinking, which other theories are based upon. This is the age that many children really start questioning everything! It is around this age, that my children and I began having a lot of conversations about learning to train our ears to know the voice of the Shepherd (the voice of Truth) and taking every thought captive. This is also the age of learning to make your will your servant. Make sure you have excellent, Biblically sound science resources and apologetics materials in your home. This is the building stage.
  • By the time your children hit mid-high school, they will most likely be pretty independent for the most part. Allow and encourage them to focus on critical thinking, and in depth Biblical studies. Assign large portions of the Bible to memorize and study. Encourage and facilitate studies about doctrine, theology, and worldview. Give students this age as many outreach opportunities as possible – and not always in an exclusively Christian setting. Learning how to be the hands and feet of Jesus and putting their faith into action is an important part of their education. This is the age that students should learn to articulate fluently and know how to defend their faith with sound apologetics.
  • Last, but certainly NOT least…pray. Pray for guidance. Pray for your children and in front of your children. Pray. Pray. Pray.

Next, a fitting education needs to fit the student.

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This is the nitty gritty how-to of a fitting education – it’s what brings the broad sense of education down to the level of the unique person that each of our students are.

Many of the aspects of the Charlotte Mason method come in handy in this area. Because of her natural approach to education, we can easily make each child’s education fit that child’s need.

For example, when my three eldest children were all in elementary grades, I found it extremely helpful to use a literature based approach with them. We gathered in our family room with our stacks of books and spent a couple of hours reading and memorizing Scriptures, enjoying historical novels, and watching apologetics dvds. I made this work well for my children even though they are all different types of learners.

My son struggled with auditory processing and attention deficit, so before the school year, I created a simple checklist for each of the historical novels we were going to read. As I read, he would listen and check off his list as I came to the topics on it. This helped him with his oral narrations. My eldest daughter is an extremely visual learner, so I would give her a copy of the book I was reading (I bought a copy and borrowed a copy of each book), so she could read along. I learned to give her our owned copy so she could highlight words she needed to look up in the dictionary. I still have all of her index boxes full of alphabetized vocabulary cards.

My third child needed to do something with her hands to pay attention, so she either played with play dough or Legos while I read. After our together time, we would gather around the table to do our written work – each at their own level. Most of the time, I would do dictation from a book we had been reading for the older two students, while my younger daughter did copywork from one of her readers, the Bible or a poetry book. We practiced spelling words, learned cursive, and read poetry. We explored nature, and painted pictures while we listened to classical music. There was no busywork, and real learning was taking place each at their own level, at their own speed, and in their own learning style.

When an education is approached in this way, the child is encouraged to tap into their own unique strengths and giftings to make their learning journey their own.  A fitting education doesn’t give the child “learning sores” from a burden that rubs blisters on their souls and teaches them to turn their minds off from sheer boredom.

Nothing causes burn-out for the child or the parent faster than ill-fitting expectations that are consistently not being achieved. Nothing makes the love of learning die faster than never reaching goals and never feeling proud of your work. Goals should be challenging but attainable. And they should be laid out by the parent and the student together. Academic goals, spiritual goals, habit goals… all of these should match the developmental speed of the child.

Lastly, a fitting education prepares the student. This is the big one.

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We need to remember that God chose to have our children be part of this generation for a reason. Our children are the Esthers, the Daniels, the Gideons, and the Ruths of this generation.

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A fitting education PREPARES the student to be a light in the darkness.  

On that note, I want to talk just a little about testing.  Like it or not, testing is something that we deal with today. It would be great if we could just request a collage entrance board to administer a narration quiz for our kids, but that is not reality!

If our children are being called to a field of service that requires one of the required college entrance exams, then we need to make sure they are prepared. 

I know from experience that  the worry and stress of test taking can pretty much destroy the atmosphere of peace and joy in a homeschool. But building test-taking skills can be really simple. Here are a few tips on taking the scary out of the whole “test-taking thing.”

  • Start when your kids are young. I know, probably not the usual Charlotte Mason method advice you get, but I have learned that if you can show your children that test-taking really isn’t that scary or hard when they are young, you’ll save both you and them a lot of issues later. Don’t approach the test-taking skill building as “how much do you know?” You already know what your student has mastered.
  • Don’t teach to a test. *Don’t let the test be the boss of you.
  • Give your student one worksheet a month. For those of us who really can’t stand worksheets, this is a hard one to concede to, but like it or not worksheets/forms/tests are a fact of life and something that everyone needs to be familiar with! (Think job applications, tax forms, health care records, etc.) Worksheets/forms/tests require a different type of thinking than most oral/written-narration students have developed. Give your kid a break! Give them a worksheet!
  • Speaking of worksheets, you may discover (like I did with my youngest child!) that you have a child who actually enjoys workbooks. I have to tell you, after I got over my gasping in horror and disbelief, I realized that this particular child (who is a proficient writer) learned better with a workbook. And that’s okay! She is the one that struggles least with test-taking. She also writes amazing narrations and is extremely good with grammar and the mechanics of writing.
  • Spelling quizzes, math quizzes, and even geography or science quizzes given one or two times a month (or, if you prefer, following the advice below) throughout their elementary years will take the edge off of those testing-taking anxieties.

*Teaching to the test is not real education. For a couple of my children, I actually removed test-taking skills from their other subjects. If you have a child who memorizes spelling words for a test and then promptly forgets them, you may want to try this, too. I would go online and find quizzes (or worksheets that I used as a quiz) about material that I knew my child had mastered. I would print these worksheets or quizzes out and keep them in a folder to be handed out to the student once in a while. You might want to think of these as pop quizzes that are meant only to build test-taking skills. I didn’t care how the child did on the quiz; it was about the quiz itself – not finding out what material they knew. I watched for confidence and the ability to be quick on their feet. I studied them to see how they were doing with following the written instructions on the quiz.

Years go by so quickly. I just want to encourage you, my friend, to not be weary in well doing. In the next post in this series, we are going to be chatting about the sharing of responsibility in the learning process. What is truly our responsibility in our children’s learning journey? I think you may be a little surprised.

If you know someone who would be encouraged by this series, please share it from the home page. Thanks!

 

Part 1: What exactly is education?

We all have our own ideas about what education is. Some of us may think of a good education as one that includes many experiences, a vast knowledge base, or excellent grades, while others may believe that an excellent education is based on critical thinking, cultural understanding, and global connections. Who would be correct? Education is touted as one of the most important aspects of life – with it, the sky is the limit; without it, a person is doomed to live out their days in the narrow confines of ignorance.

But who is to say when someone has received a good education? Can it even be defined and determined by human thought alone? Could it be that this growing and filling of the mind isn’t simply a physical or even a psychological phenomenon?

Does God care about education? Does He say anything about it?

In his new book, Education: Does God have an Opinion?, Israel Wayne writes:

 “The Christian worldview teaches that the real purpose for our existence is to know God. Why were we created? Think back to Adam working in the Garden of Eden. Did the God who created the whole universe with the breath of His mouth really need an employee to tend the vegetables and fruit trees? Of course not! He created us to have fellowship with Him. *The purpose of an education is to know our Creator. It is not even primarily to prepare us for Kingdom work. It is to teach us about the nature of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the chief end of man is, ‘To glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.’ Harvard College’s original mission statement in 1636 defines the purpose of an education this way: ‘let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, *the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom , as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.’ “

Charlotte Mason said this about education:

“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God – we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that *the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.”

*emphasis mine

Charlotte’s view of education being fulfilled through a relationship with God is the foundational reason that I endorse her method as much as I do.

It is absolutely imperative for me to clarify: Although I am a great admirer of many aspects of Miss Mason’s educational method,  I am not a Charlotte Mason purist. Many aspects of her method makes the acquisition of knowledge, which is founded in the truth of God, doable and natural for us as home educators, but we must be aware that it is GOD who should and must be the director of our homes and families. No person or their method should ever be elevated to the position of infallible. We are called to love the LORD with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and to have no other gods before Him. 

We also need to remember that Charlotte lived during the Victorian Era, and the children of that age dealt with astronomically different cultural issues than those that our children deal with. 

Lack of child protection laws, poor educational options for the lower class, and heavy, adult-sized responsibility placed on small shoulders…these are some of the cultural issues that Charlotte sought to shine a light on. These were the realities of children during her era.

 

Some things never change. Issues of the sanctity of life have always been at stake, but our children face the blatant attack on identity and the basic right to be born, as well.  These are the issues that we deal with in our current culture.

 

I think it’s safe to say that our culture is in a place it’s never been before. We all need to ask ourselves, are we preparing our children to be world changers in our current culture?

Charlotte Mason advocated giving the student a fitting education, but what is a fitting education for our student’s today? I believe she would be the first to tell us that it’s not the same education that the children of her day needed. 

In the next post in this series, I will unpack these three criteria of a fitting education: it serves the student, it fits the student, and it prepares the student.

[This blog series is based upon a workshop, titled The Charlotte Mason Method for: Today’s Student –  It’s All About Worldview, which I have been teaching at homeschool conferences this year.]

Charlotte Mason for Today’s Student

Why do you homeschool? Have you articulated and written down your foundational belief that leads you to live out your life with the conviction that this is the best educational choice for your family? Are you prepared to stand by your choice without wavering and give an account for what you know God has called you to do?

Whether you are just now beginning your homeschooling journey, or if you have been at it for a while, but haven’t nailed your 99 theses to the wall, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Having a clearly articulated why? will help you to stay focused when the going gets long or bumpy and the winter months entice you to hibernate.

This blog series is going to be focusing on unwrapping what a fitting education is for today’s student. As someone who admires many aspects of the Charlotte Mason method, I have chosen to use several foundational elements of her educational philosophy to help me to bring you some practical tips for everyday life.

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