There is an amusing wall photo traveling the Facebook circuit right now regarding homeschools.
You’ve probably seen it, but the bottom line, so to speak, of the photo is that what actually happens in most homeschools is very different than the perception of outsiders–the neighbors, the government, public school friends, professional teachers, etc. Indeed, I talked in an earlier post about that impending moment when your homeschool environment must somehow conform itself into what the outside world (read college admissions offices, in our case) wants to see. If your child is college-bound, those final four years must somehow fit into the format that is friendly for those who’ll decide if your seemingly avant-garde methodologies measure up to their standards. There is another side of this equation, however: what happens when the educational requirements in your home actually exceed what is required by a college?
My husband and I were having this conversation on the way back from a recent family mini-vacation. With hours in the car, I chose to catch up on some neglected reading materials, including the oldest’s college information packages from all of her recent tours. As I began to read through the required courses at the high school level, that light bulb that you see in cartoons was suddenly waaaaaaaay bright: after this academic year, she’s finished with most of the requirements!
Before I could settle into that moment of elation mixed with relief, I began to seriously ponder what this revelation meant to us in the coming school year. Should I continue in a more rigorous path, or should I just teach/ plan for someone else to teach those few remaining classes that must be taught, and then allow a whole lot of “masterly inactivity,” as Charlotte Mason calls it?
Our daughter has personal and professional interests that are almost polar opposites of the direction I chose at her age. Yet, she also has “closet” interests that are more similar to mine, so I’ve stuck to a fairly rigorous academic plan for her: much focus on writing, reading Western classics and great literature from around the world, exploring various areas of science, and making sure she conceptually understood math as opposed to mastering drill sheets. We’ve been very strategic about her college courses and why we chose this path, when to take what class, and making sure that her choices of class aligned well with her interests. Our goal, in part, was for her to have a good introductory experience to the pace and the many possiblities of college. But now, I sit in the midst of a dilemma. Dependent upon where our daughter applies for college entrance, all she needs to take to complete her required courses is 1 year of English. That’s it! I also have planned a World Geography course. Otherwise, she can spend her time completing some of the courses required for college, she can get more involved in volunteerism or dance assistance/ instruction, she could potentially work–the world is her oyster!
Not coincidentally (as least I think so) during that extended ride, I also thumbed through one of my favorite homeschool “how-tos” and found this jewel:
‘If you ask a secular educator about learning theory, he would likely describe learning as a mental process centered on the child’s material brain, and measured by the retention of discreet facts and information. He would emphasize the role of the teacher and the acquisition of knowledge…As a Christian home educator with a biblical view of education, …you would describe learning as a personal process involving both your child’s heart…and mind, and measured by wisdom, understanding and knowledge of truth...You would be more concerned with your child’s understanting of important ideas and concepts, than with the accumulation of discreet knowledge. Your child is not just a soulless brain that needs to be filled up with facts by a teacher, but a person in relationship with you and God, who has eternal value, dignity and purpose because he or she is made in the image and likeness of their Creator.’
Sally Clarkson, Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, pg. 43
As a brief digression, I think every homeschooling parent needs to periodically go back to the old landmark, so to speak, and remind himself/ herself why they began this journey in the first place. The trip back didn’t disappoint. I needed to remember that this journey wasn’t, and isn’t, about cramming every moment with books and notebooks. It is about pouring into the children, and then sealing upon their hearts and minds a confidence in knowing as well as a thirst for growing. On that same page, Ms. Clarkson continues:
‘A child is not educated just because he’s logged enough time in classrooms, or performed well on certain tests, or completed a formal curriculum. In God’s economy, to be “educated” is not a matter of something you know or have achieved. Rather, to be educated is something you become. A truly educated child is one who has the desire and the ability to learn and to grow. The desire to learn (will) is from the heart; the ability to learn (skill) is in the mind.’
It is possible to do both–rigor and relaxation. The question is not rigorous or relaxed, but instead, how to combine the two to give her one final, memorable experience of being at home, learning and loving with those who will miss her dearly. Blessings, dear friends.