One thing that keeps homeschool moms from breaking out of the traditional system of doing things is a lack of confidence that their children will actually learn something. We hope that the promises offered by a traditional structure provided from the outside – whether from the curriculum we choose, the schedule we use or state requirements – will produce the desired result. It takes considerable faith to believe that doing the same thing that has repeatedly failed to produce results will somehow end in a more fruitful result this time.
Look around you. Watch what your children are doing. Learn alongside them. Journal and keep track of what you see. Is real learning taking place? Here are a few identifying characteristics to look for.
- Real learning is a lifelong, 24/7 adventure. With the exception of sleep, we are constantly learning something. Every minute of every hour of every day we are incorporating input, exchanging patterns of thoughts and developing habits. You can see how focused we should be on the input!
When you increase the quality of your lifestyle activities, you open the door for learning opportunities to come into your home. The fuller your lifestyle becomes with real life and worthwhile activity, the easier homeschooling becomes. In time, learning as a lifestyle will become your whole life.
A learning lifestyle provides an environment conducive to real 24/7 learning. Real learning will not cease simply because a document of completion says so. (As a side note, there are probably those of us who do learn in our sleep!)
- Real learning can only be accomplished by the student. Learning is not something that is done to you. You have to do it for yourself.
One thing at any rate we know with certainty, that no teaching, no information becomes knowledge to any of us until the individual mind has acted upon it, translated it, transformed, absorbed it, to reappear, like our bodily food, in forms of vitality.
Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.
Look for ways that your children are making knowledge their own; for example, by acting upon it (acting out a story) or absorbing it (always re-telling a new fact). If you are using a literature-based method, provide opportunities for your children to interact with the literature they read.
- Real learning is not confined to what happens inside the pages of a workbook. There is an entire world to discover! Walking with nature, building projects, learning to sew, playing an instrument, star-gazing – these are all examples of real learning.
Upon the knowledge of these great matters – History, Literature, Nature, Science, Art – the Mind feeds and grows. It assimilates such knowledge as the body assimilates food, and the person becomes what is called magnanimous, that is a person of great mind, wide interests, incapable of occupying himself much about petty, personal matters. What a pity to lose sight of such a possibility for the sake of miserable scraps of information about persons and things that have little connection with one another and little connection with ourselves!
- Real learning is not occupied with filling the mind with facts. Memorization-regurgitation-repeat does not equal real learning. If you have really learned something, you won’t forget it the next day! Real learning will, of course, include the learning of facts, but as part of the broader picture rather than the focus. This is easiest to convey when we consider history. I learn more historical facts, but more importantly how they fit together, by reading a biography than by memorizing dates to pass a test.
- Real learning educates the entire individual. One of the tenets of most classical education is the return to educating the whole person rather than focusing exclusively on the academic aspects of education. There are other aspects of learning that are just as important and just as real if, however, not as easily measured, as academic progress: physical training, the ability to think, learning to learn, interacting with nature, cultivating an appreciation for art and music, developing the individual skills we have been given, finding our life’s work, learning to “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8).
It has only been in recent history that we’ve neglected the whole child, beginning when God was removed from the education most of us received. There is a moral side to education – a purpose. Any education that claims none isn’t true. And to make education relevant to students who know something is amiss, educators have tried to fill the gap with values clarification, or cultural literacy, or a revival of Greek education. As a Christian, I seek to educate the whole child. I want each child to grow in wisdom and stature with their hearts reflecting our Lord for His glory. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Without God, education falls apart.
- Real learning is living. Homeschooling functions best when it becomes simply another facet of our daily lives.We can tear down the wall between “education” and “home life” by creating a rich learning environment.
- Real learning is simple. When our children are young students, we are pretty sure we need flashcards, manipulatives, several text books, colorful workbooks, a chalkboard, timers, worksheets, videos, games, and scripted teacher’s manuals – and that just to teach addition facts! How do we learn as adults? Typically, by reading or observing.
[M]any hours are wasted in many children’s lives each day. EVEN those that homeschool. Curriculum companies have convinced us that we need books to teach Spelling, Grammar, Literature, Language Arts, Phonics, Reading, Vocabulary…and that just covers LANGUAGE ARTS!!! Going back to the old paths, we find that education just 100 years ago was so much more simpler. In addition, that same education trained up thinkers who became the writers, artists, composers, theologians, politicians, inventors, and scientists that were world-changers! Today, the fruit of our educational system is much too sparse!
Become your child’s mentor. Focus on each child’s needs. Start where they are and bring them forward. Teach them how to learn without the bells and whistles. They will be less likely to confuse entertainment with real education.