At Sandbox to Socrates we are devoted to sharing our homeschooling experience and wisdom with you. We want to tell you what to do when you approach a subject or skill with your child, so the Monday morning dread is lessened due to preparation and confidence. We want to teach you how to roll up your sleeves and teach! We also want to encourage you in loving your children, preparing your heart to teach them, and keeping the big picture in mind. Always.
The following is a “big picture” bit of wisdom from a veteran homeschooler who is facing the end of her homeschool journey with a couple of her sons. ~Editor
Sometimes it seems the younger moms feel that the elder are being vague and unhelpful when asked very specific questions about homeschooling. Especially when the homeschooling parents of teens get on a kick about classical education and we start talking about literary analysis, calculus, philosophy, Latin and Greek…and our children’s studies sound so interesting and their achievements seem rather impressive, so you ask us the formula by which one gains these results. You want lists, schedules, planners, curriculum reviews, and premade lesson plans. Those things have their place, but they are tools and nothing more, so we never do sound as invested in them as you’d like us to be. We can try to tell you about the mystery of homeschooling that goes beyond the plans, but there are only so many ways that we can say, “Work out your own convictions and live by them for that is the only way to have peace in how you homeschool your children. You will only believe in it enough to do it, no matter what comes, if you were the author of the vision.”
We can say (and we have said), “Read these books and see if these philosophies take root in your heart.”
We can say (and we have said), “These book publishers and classical education speakers or mentors are seeking some of the same things, so you might want to start with their lists and materials while you hone your vision.”
We can say (and we have said), “It starts with believing that the answers are within yourself and not so much in a system designed by someone else.”
But we can’t really show you our day, because it’s not a matter of marching the children through stacks of curriculum and skills, not a matter of standardized test prep, not a matter of magic found in routines and schedules. We make pretty plans and lists but we depart from them as the spirit leads, and what arises in their place is almost always better…and we don’t even know how to say that in a short, online conversation! We older moms are frustrated, too, because what we really want is to get off this computer and invite you over to our houses for the day so you can just watch us do what we do, but we can’t. We have these articles and Facebook and forum chats that we are eager to share with you, but you’ll have to walk that lonesome valley to make it your own.
Read the books. Buy books for your children and for yourself. Determine who you want to be as a parent and as your child’s guide through his formative years and BE that person, no matter what anybody says, no matter if you get tired or lonely or start to doubt yourself. Be who you are called to be. Learn to see the human growth of the child standing in front of you, and to be honest with yourself about whether he is growing in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man. Does he lean toward beauty? Can he recognize truth and wisdom? Is he curious? Is he happy? Is he acquiring the kinds of useful skills upon which he can build more knowledge and skills? Whatever you believe education to be “for,” are you seeing the fruit of that pursuit in your home or do you need to make changes so that the entire family is living and growing again?
See, I can tell you the books my seventeen-year-old son is reading this year, and I can give you a few snapshots of our discussions. What I can’t do is explain exactly how homeschooling in this highly relational way is superior to even the best private schools. Not really. It has something to do with that connection between parent and child. It has a lot to do with the continuity of having a single very attached teacher through their whole childhood. The power, the absolute power of being able to refer to lessons he learned at 4, 8, 12, as he goes on? To make those connections to pivotal moments in his education and upbringing as you encounter the same principles in his rhetoric level books? AMAZING growth, amazing love, amazing connection — this is why homeschooling in this switched-on way is so effective. You were there for the whole thing. You were there to show him the world from birth. And you were there to help him learn to express his reactions to all that he sees and thinks, through writing, speaking, drawing, painting, and living.
You will see your children live a life changed, shaped and molded by virtuous things. Heroes, wisdom, beauty, truth, knowledge, skills, faith, wonder — nobody spends their day seeking these things without being changed. You will be changed, too.
This type of transforming growth does not come by workbooks and canned curriculum. You can start with somebody’s list, but if you aren’t open to the spirit leading you and the rabbit trails being of greater worth than the plan, then this style might not be for you. If you can’t listen to your child explain in wonder how a book has changed his life (with all the connections and lessons he’s learned, just pouring out of him, as he becomes your teacher for the moment) and follow that by tossing your study guide out the window because the student has obviously learned all he needed to learn for now…then this style might not be for you. If you are not interested in spending your spare time reading and listening and thinking and learning and praying so that you have more to pour out in the unexpected moments, then this style might not be for you.
But if this type of organic classical education is for you, and you are ready to tell the world that college and career ready skills might be a by-product of your child’s education but they will never be the goal, and you thumb your nose at the standardized tests and you no longer yearn to be rich enough to send your child to the “best” prep school, and you know that truth leads to more truth so you have time to figure it out and you have the diligence to pursue it…you will reap what you sow. Sow these things into your children and into your own heart and you will reap a beautiful and bountiful harvest.
After a very hard winter (literally and metaphorically) I am seeing the buds and shoots. Spring is here. The crop is promising, and I have no regrets.