His story from here

Christian education at home

This is the debut of a new series of articles on the theme “His story from here” – occasional glimpses into the life of ordinary Christians living out God’s story in different corners of the country through their careers, hobbies, volunteering, blogging or anything else they were created to do. If you know of someone who should be featured here, or if you would like to be that someone, please contact ac.reiruocnaitsirhc@acinom.

A friend of mine, who can be counted upon to give a carefully considered response to any question, was asked what her most compelling reason for home educating would be. After a small pause her answer came: “We have a lot of opportunities to learn to show grace to each other.” No academic lingo about learning styles, literacy, numeracy or post-secondary preparedness. While these things are important and definitely part of any decision to launch into home education, they aren’t what drive a sane person to keep their babies, kindergarteners and tweens together under one roof and off of the shiny, benevolent school bus – that purveyor of the promise of silence on a noisy morning. It is Grace that we crave in those moments, not pedagogy. Learning as a family offers so many meta-lessons that give focus to the wherefore of the letters and numbers.

I’ve been at this home learning business for about 10 years now, not long enough to call myself a veteran, but plenty long enough to have earned a pile of nickels for every time someone has said to me that they could never homeschool because they lack the patience. Patience is not a knack any of us are born with. Patience is a fruit. It doesn’t grow unless a tree has been planted, watered, pruned and tended. Being together with my kids has been such a beautiful opportunity to grow together as a family; surviving the tender and spindly years of young, immature tantrums and watching for the blossoms of character and strong relationships between siblings that come with the work of faithful gardening. If we have any patience for each other it is because we’ve learned it. And we also learn math.

Rekindling joy
Another lesson we have learned on this journey that is difficult to find in any packaged curriculum is the importance of taking time to become acquainted with the person that God made you. Last winter, our family even went to the length of closing all of our schoolbooks for a trial period of six months to explore our gifts and interests without the distraction of having to finish the allotted pages in our textbooks which had filled our days. Things had actually been going fine that fall, the kids dutifully were checking off their lists of assigned work with much less gnashing than previous years, but I noticed that the joy of learning had diminished by the same degrees as I had added more bookwork over the years.  We did not embark on this journey only to be doing “fine.” The results of that experiment with “unschooling” were very telling. Through conversations, focused skill-building projects and the embracing of teachable moments that presented themselves throughout the day, the kids grew in confidence, self-awareness.  Their sense of wonder at creation was rekindled. And their academic skills did not diminish. Why then, had we been so focused on finishing the next three pages in the spelling book? I am so thankful for the flexibility of homeschooling that allowed that time of reflection to even be a possibility so we could choose the educational methods that actually served to meet our goals of raising persons, not just containers of knowledge.
 
Counter-cultural choices
Probably my favourite reason for teaching my children at home is the simple fact that I can. My life is a gift from God and I can make choices that I feel draw me closer to my purpose even if those choices are not the same as most others around me. I want my children to feel bold enough to do the same when they may feel led to do something that seems counter-cultural and may be difficult. 

There are so many more extracurricular lessons that homeschooling families will gladly list if asked. Choosing just a few has been a strain but also a helpful refresher to be mindful of what sustains the decision to see the learning adventure through even when your child is still sounding out the word “them” on page 15 of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, or a sock has landed on your toast for the second time in a week. Family togetherness, flexibility to choose educational methods that nurture the child as a person, not just a student, and the example of healthy spirit-led life decisions that may seem radical are the lessons that this mom has learned thus far in the journey. It isn’t about whether we are doing enough things but, rather, are we doing the right things to prepare our children for kingdom work.

  • Alicia Looyenga is a teacher who spends her days at home in Hamilton, Ont., with her four children, and loves it. In her spare time she upcycles wool sweaters and blogs (sporadically) about their educational experiments and family life in general at littlewoolymama.blogspot.ca. The duck on her shoulder is named Bubbles . . . she says THAT is a long story to be shared another time . . .

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