Finishing the Year Well (or maybe not)

allen-taylor-Im94u5EJsVo-unsplashBy this time of the year many homeschooling moms are looking forward to the end of the semester, ready for a summer break.  We want to stay motivated and remain upbeat, encouraging our students to complete their semester projects/co-ops/classes well.  With summer soon approaching your children are ready for the break and, more-than-likely, so are you.   The following suggestion might rain on your parade and I apologize beforehand.  Academia, education, and parent instruction are not entitled to a summer break.  There, I said it, but please allow me to explain.

Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children 24/7.  If you and your children are looking forward to a break from academia then let me suggest that your philosophy of education may need to be tweaked just a little bit.  Before you quit reading, allow me to propose that a change in your philosophy of education that might actually relieve stress and add joy to your family’s homeschooling adventure.  After homeschooling my nine for more than 32 years total, I am now finished!  In the beginning of my journey I thought of myself as a homeschool parent from September until May.  I, too, loved our summer breaks.  When I was challenged to come up with a philosophy of education I was hit with a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious).  Homeschooling was simply an extension to what we were already doing with our children from birth to age 5, but the necessity of putting in writing a plan with specific goals brought an awareness of the need to change my attitude about having a school year, a start date,  an end date, and a summer break!  In the end I was set free from these time constraints and, as a result, found that this new frame of mind actually brought about a new freedom to enjoy time with my children year-around as we took advantage of learning opportunities on a daily basis.

My husband and I were committed to raising our children to:

  • Have a love of learning
  • Be independent learners
  • Be articulate apologists
  • Discover their gifts and talents in order to plan for life after high school

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Of course we created a plan that would, hopefully, ensure success, but being hit in the face with the realization that parenting is a year-around, 24/7 responsibility I decided to quit compartmentalizing our education goals into a limited time frame.  The day this BFO hit I told my children, “We are no longer ‘doing’ school.  We are doing life.”  We were homeschooling co-op style, using unit studies and, because of that method, my children were already familiar with the integration of subjects into the big picture.  With the exception of math we did not really separate and compartmentalize most academic subjects. Embracing a philosophy of education that includes the recognition of day-in and day-out academic opportunities was both appealing and welcoming.  That particular evening we visited my parents and my dad asked, “What did you do in school today?” One of my children replied, “We don’t do school any more.”  The look on his face clearly showed his shock and displeasure.  I quickly shared with him what the child meant by that statement — that instead of thinking that an education starts and ends at a certain time of the day, or year, we were now going to look at every day, all year long, as an opportunity for learning.  After all, isn’t that true for all of us from birth to death?  My dad was a professor at FSU so this response brought a smile to his face.

How did this realization change our lives?  The biggest change was simply a change in mentality.  We continued to take part in co-ops in the fall and in the spring, but instead of being stressed that we were covering everything that needed to be covered academically during those periods we continued to take advantage, daily, of learning opportunities.  This philosophy of education also meant that we did not have to worry about how many days of the year our children were “in class” because every day included the opportunity to learn something new.  Summers, as with most families, brought changes in the schedule, but continued to provide learning opportunities.

When I was in school from K to 12, I developed a “chew up and spit out” technique of learning.  I did well on tests, but I did not develop a love for learning.  In fact, I found school to be so boring that I could not wait to be finished!  Once I began homeschooling my children I quickly developed a love of learning and soon regretted how many years of opportunity to learn I missed out on growing up!  Hearing students say they can not wait to close their last book and never open another book is so disheartening.  These students are missing out on so much by thinking that learning ends at the completion of a degree.

By now you may be asking, “How does one switch from a school mentality to a ‘life is learning’ mentality?”  Thanks for asking!  Realizing the importance of embracing this philosophy is the first step.  Taking steps to ensure that you and your family have a mindset change is next.  This will come about through discussions and by example.  You teach a toddler to count as he goes up and down the stairs.  As you shop with your children, teach them to be aware of prices, to shop frugally, and explain that math will be a part of their lives until they die.  Throughout the day pose questions to your children that will cause them to be curious and then teach them how to find answers to the questions you ask and, eventually, to the questions they will ask!  Let your children know that learning is both fun and fulfilling and model that with your enthusiasm for reading, attending classes, and teaching!  As a family read biographies of famous people who were life-long learners and make a point of discovering what made them famous.  Oftentimes, people achieve success because they are tenacious, persistent, hard working, and open to new ways of thinking.  Sign your children up for conferences, camps, and workshops that will encourage them to have a desire to keep learning, even after they graduate.  When our children attended Summit Worldview Conferences repeatedly heard the phrase, “Readers are leaders.”  My husband and I, along with our children, have enjoyed attending political, worldview, entrepreneurial, theological, and speech and debate conferences over the years.  We love learning and our children know that.

Learning is a life-long adventure.  The sooner we get this message across to our children, the better it will be!  Rather than looking at the end of the semester as an end to the school year, encourage your children to love learning every single day of their lives!

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