Monday, July 28, 2014

Home-centered, Classical Christian Education

I didn’t always see myself as a homeschooler. Bet you’ve heard that one before.

I taught kindergarten in a Christian school right up to the birth of my first child. I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for my children but I always saw us sending them to a Christian school when the time came. In fact, we did just that. I even went to work part time teaching preschool when my son turned 3 and I went off to school with my little guy.

And then the weirdest thing happened.

I felt a strange jealousy that someone else was having such a large impact on his little life. While I think it is wonderful for many mentors to have a role in the growth and development of my children, something in me wanted desperately to be the one to lead and guide in this aspect of his life. I was sending him off to a preschool classroom while I went across the hall and taught. It just seemed backwards to me. Even then, homeschooling wasn’t a direction we would walk towards.

We moved, we welcomed another blessing and my big boy was off to kindergarten. The Lord brought me through a lot of growth during these years and a desire to homeschool began to kindle in my heart. It was during his second grade year that I began to seriously petition my husband to open his consideration to homeschooling. Honestly, he wasn’t at all on board. At all. He finally gave me the okay after I begged and pleaded showed him the merits of home-centered education. We decided to try it for a year…and now we are entering into our 4th year of homeschooling with all three of our children.  Both my husband and I have grown and deepened in our belief in a home-centered, classical Christian education for our children.

So what does that mean? Let’s take a look.

This phrase means pretty much what you’d think.  The cornerstone of our children's education is the home, and more specifically our family and our Lord. God has called me to this task of educating our children and He will equip me. While the majority of our schooling is done at home, it’s not the only place where my children are taught. They are learning all of the time, both formally and informally. We choose to place our children in many activities and programs where other adults mentor and tutor them but the main responsibility of their learning is ours.  As part of this we choose to be part of a local Classical Conversations community where my children are taught by tutors one day a week. (More on that in another post!)

A classical education is so much more than just adding Latin to a regular curriculum.  The classical model divides learning into three stages focusing on memorization and recitation. They are grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. It is a proven method that has been used to train the greatest minds for thousands of years.  

The grammar stage begins in the early years and continues until about age 12. It is learning the words and terms, the vocabulary of a subject. In this stage, students are being poured into and they are soaking it up like sponges. They are receiving the building blocks they will use later in math, history, geography, science, English grammar, Latin, and fine arts. Little ones love this stage! They so enjoy repeating songs and chanting rhymes. We are placing pegs in their little minds where they can hang information. 

Dialectic brings the questions and much of this stage is accomplished through dialogue. Students are sorting, comparing, and practicing the knowledge they learned in the grammar stage. This happens naturally around the ages of 10 to 13 when students really enjoy this time of questioning.

The rhetoric stage is where we use what we’ve learned and communicate that to someone else through writing and conversation.  Older teens use this to creatively solve problems and express themselves through original papers and speeches.  The student is applying knowledge.

Mostly, classical education builds skills needed for leadership such as logic, debate, clear reasoning, researching and communicating. Classically educated students are taught the art of learning so they can teach themselves and be free to do so.  It just makes sense.

I wanted an education for my children that is founded on the inerrant Word of God. In a classical Christian education, all subjects are interconnected and God is at the center as the author and creator of each.  Everything teaches us more about the nature of God and a better understanding of Him teaches us more about each subject. I want my children to understand that the true purpose of education is to know God more fully and to gather the skills needed to make Him known to the world. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” When we study in order to know Him more and discover more about His character, we are loving Him with all of our minds.  I want my children to utilize their studies to seek God, to prepare their hearts to accept Christ and then develop a rational, defensible faith.

These are just tidbits of what I’ve learned so far and I am continually learning still. May I never stop!

These reasons are part of why we choose homeschooling and to be part of a Classical Conversations community. It has proven to be a good fit for our family.

I’ll leave you with one final thought  on this method.

A classical Christian education builds a noble house by laying the foundation with knowledge (grammar) building the walls and the roof with understanding (dialectic) and decorating the house with wisdom (rhetoric). (Classical Christian Education Made Approachable, pg 52)

Thanks for hanging in there with me...I didn't mean to write a novel! Blessings friends!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

following the Shepherd

Our children are little sheep. 
Little sheep who are following their mama sheep who needs to be following the Shepherd. 
We need to be saying to them, "follow I follow Christ."

It has been heavy on my heart lately just how much our little ones are looking for direction. 
Their little hearts are seeking for something to follow, someone to imitate. They need direction. It is our job to lead them in order to keep their "heart on the right path." (Proverbs 23:19) This is the most important job we have as mothers. 

The heart is so central to our being. It is the source for our thoughts, fears, desires and prayers. Scripture gives great significance to the role of the heart.  

"The heart is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

Mamas. Our children are looking to us for leading. Their hearts are made for worship. If we don't instruct them in the truth and reveal to them God's purpose for them to know Him and enjoy Him, the little idol factories of their hearts will seek out selfish objects for this worship. It is our ultimate job to pour truth into their little hearts and show them the path to follow.  

We are leading them through the daily instruction we are providing. Here is the key. We are instructing our children whether we are being intentional about it or not. What we say and what we do teaches, whether positively or negatively. The way in which we react to others, the things we fill our time with, the attitudes we exhibit. All of these instruct our children. 

We are always teaching and they are always learning. 

Life is a constant classroom and our homes are a place where our children are constantly learning. We must teach them diligently according to Deuteronomy 6:7. As we sit in our homes and walk out among the world. When we are lying down and as we are rising up. Basically, all of the time and in everything that we do! We are to instruct them in truth and righteousness. Scripturally how they are to live, think and believe. We must teach them to love the Lord with all of their heart and to love and serve others.

I think it is so easy sometimes to grow weary and complacent in our mothering. Telling the little toddler at our feet the same instruction day after day. Dealing with sin issues in our preschoolers and older children and wondering why they haven't "gotten it" yet when it seems to us as though we are a broken record repeating the same instructions day after day.
But maybe we are the ones missing the point. Maybe we aren't aiming for their hearts. Yes, I think that might be a huge factor. I know it is for me. You see, they aren't going to "just be good" for the same reasons that we still struggle in sins. We all need rescuing and praise God there is a Savior who is able to do just that!

Mamas, we MUST be following after Christ because He is the ultimate example for how to live. If we simply follow Christ, then our little ones will be on the path with us. And by His grace, day by day, we will grow more into the likeness of Him.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9