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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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