Because I needed a photo, and I ran across this one
this morning, and I think Liya is so durn adorable.
(It has nothing whatsoever to do with the post.)
Before I describe how we homeschooled during high school, I thought it necessary to say that, really, high school was an extension of the atmosphere and learning lifestyle we had established in the early years. We just kept going in the same way we always had, with a little tweak or two that I'll explain more fully later. (You're thinking I'm never going to get to that high school post, aren't you? But, really, this is part of it.)
Without the atmosphere (or learning habitat) that we had in place, I'm not sure we could have done what we did for high school. So, I think it's only fair to set down a few items that guided us and helped to create the environment we had in our home.
Whenever I begin to talk about our homeschooling life, I get an inner cringe. This is just us. I'm not trying to set down a pattern for anyone (I think, I hope, you know that). We had a particular attitude toward learning and a particular philosophy that served as our foundation and vision, and it is one way to learn, for sure, but it is not (obviously) the only way.
Depending on your educational values and goals, you will create the kind of learning environment, philosophy, and methods in your own home to make that vision work.
My vision was guided by the idea that God has created us each unique, with specific abilities, talents, and interests. And if God made us a particular way, He has also inclined us toward that. This inclination, I believe, can lead to a good education--one that honors who God made us to be. Education, then, is a way to develop our God-given gifts and inclinations in order to serve Him in the specific way He has called us to serve.
A second part of my vision was to see my kids develop such a love for learning that it would become a lifestyle--what they did all the time. Love takes learning much farther than duty. Out of love comes wonder, curiosity, delight, passion, depth, seriousness, joy, discipline. And a child develops a unique and deep education.
The home environment we set up was very pointedly constructed to aid in the realization of those two goals. It was tweaked and altered over the years, and it was never followed perfectly. In fact, know that well: I preach consistency, but I was certainly not perfectly consistent. I preach gentleness, but I was never even close to perfectly that. Everything I value was never perfectly observed. But I persistently, consistently tried. When I'd fail, I'd apologize. When I fell, I'd get back up, dust myself off, and get going again. I would be blown off course occasionally (or would just wander away), but I kept moving, and I'd find my way back (thanks to a guiding vision). And I loved my kids with a burning heart. And I prayed. And God honored that.
So, let me set down 20 points to give a glimpse of what I thought (and still think) were important characteristics of a home environment that gives room for God-given individuality to grow and nurtures a lifelong love for learning. These were important for my home environment; if they are helpful to you, good. If not, that's good, too. We each need to walk with God on our own journey.
Also, I don't think it's ever too late to start (at least with some of this). John Senior and his friends who ran the classical studies program at Kansas realized that their students were missing the wonderful enculturation of books and nature and music and art that should take place during childhood, and without those "1000 good books" of childhood under their belt, the "100 great books" couldn't be read with the same depth of meaning and understanding. So, Senior and company, began to read childhood stories and sing childhood songs with their students. They took them to observe the wonders of nature. They attempted to give their students at least a glimpse of what should have been a part of their young lives and hoped to unearth some undeveloped childhood curiosity and wonder.
Clearly, the rich learning culture that should exist in the early years sets the foundation for gaining understanding, insight, and wisdom in more mature, serious study, but it's never too late to attempt to gain that enculturation--either for ourselves or for our children. We should do what we can do and not mourn over what is behind (because I could be dressed permanently in sack cloth and ashes if I wanted to focus on my regrets). And that is truly good enough.
Some of this you will recognize from my HDH blog, but here it is all together, and I think it bears repeating:
1. Help your children love books. Build a family library. Build individual libraries. Read aloud.
2. Get your kids outside to enjoy and observe nature. On their own terms. For fresh air, exercise, and intellectual/emotional/spiritual growth and development. And enjoy nature together, too.
3. Converse with your children all the time (listen at least as much as talking). Get the whole family conversing together--at meal time, at tea time, playing games together, working together, in the car, all day, every day.
4. Let the kids play in their own way for long hours at a time. (Media-free.) And if they want you to join them or see what they're doing--do.
5. Develop discipline through chores and other responsibilities. Give kids enough to do so that they're working hard (and long enough). Don't give them so much to do that it is overwhelming and they can't do it well or develop mastery and excellence at each chore. Work together (it's fun!) and work alone. Getting daily chores done every day is more important than getting school assignments done, in my opinion.
6. Create unique family rituals, traditions, and routines--daily, weekly, birthday, holidays, vacations. Routines and rhythms develop responsibility and provide a sense of security. Celebrations bring delight and joy and openness. (This is a V. Big Deal.)
7. Develop hobbies and interests. Parents and children alike. Now. Invest in resources to grow in knowledge and skill. This is fun and lays the foundation for deep learning.
8. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. We don't need to do everything, you know. In this world, we've got to learn to say no to an awful lot of good things. Becoming really smart and creating some impressive-looking products can happen quickly--if that's all you're going for--but passion and uniqueness require extended, uninterrupted hours.
9. Children should learn to be alone and never bored. Boredom is a bad word. Boredom is a bad attitude. The words "I'm bored" should translate to "give me a chore." Eventually the affliction will pass. And curiosity and enthusiasm will rule the day.
10. Children should also have plenty of friends, family, and interesting people in their lives. (Because we need both solitude and community.) They need to know the world doesn't revolve around them. They should learn to love and serve others (starting with their siblings).
11. Be the change. Be the kind of learner and person you want your children to become. They will do what you do. Really.
12. Sit round the table together every day for at least one lingering meal. And make sure you're eating good food. Put love into it.
13. Find quiet ways to routinely serve others together. And don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.
14. Pray with your children. Pray for them. Just pray. A lot. (This should be #1.)
15. Tell stories (without a book in your hand). Lots and lots of family stories. Fairy tales. Bible stories. Stories of history. Made-up stories. Children love listening and will beg for the same stories to be told again and again. (They really like hearing about when they were a baby or just younger than they are now.)
16. Minimize use of media and technology. I know using electronics for everything is the way of the world, but children should be given the privilege and pleasure of growing up naturally, without the distraction and intrusion of ever-present, always-on electronics. Once children know how to live real life and have developed interests, parents can decide how much electronic use they think is healthy. But I think that this is the biggest impediment to the old-fashioned curiosity-driven, passion-based kind of learning that takes people beyond savviness and smartness to depth and wisdom.
17. Have special, interesting, fun places you visit together routinely (and do the same things there every time). Explore! Get to know that place. A particular spot on a particular beach. A picnic area in a favorite park. A special trail you like to hike. Grandma's house every single Sunday afternoon. A favorite museum. Camping in a new national park every summer. Make it your place, your thing. It does not have to be grand, exotic, far away, or expensive.
18. Apologize. We are far, far, far from perfect, and our kids know it well. When we have behaved unlovingly, we should apologize humbly and ask for forgiveness. Just feeling sorry and carrying on leaves business unfinished. (It is Biblical to confess and make amends.) Kids respond lovingly to our apologies, and they learn to accept responsibility for their own actions and apologize, too.
19. Be gentle. "Pleasant words promote instruction" and "A gentle word can break a bone." (Proverbs) It's true. Gentleness is much harder to manage and maintain than sheer force, but the attempt to do so is revealing (!) and can change both us and our children.
20. Be firm. We are the parents. We set limits. We lay down expectations. And we should enforce them consistently. Firmness is not meanness. We will sometimes end up in a clash--our rules against a child's will--but a loving parent firmly outlasts the child. These clashes are part of training children. They aren't pretty, but they happen, and it is unloving not to maintain the boundary lines.
Chesterton: "The chief aim of the Christian order is to give room for all good things to run wild." Yes.
Be consistent. It is the key to good parenting.