This fall we will be entering our sixth year of homeschooling. As a former classroom teacher, I was simultaneously amazed, delighted, and dismayed at the multitude of curriculum choices available for those who chose to school at home. How on earth would I choose?
Our homeschool has always been literature-rich because, as a natural-born bookworm, I wanted to ignite a love of reading in my daughter. We began our journey with Sonlight. This literature-rich curriculum appealed to me in my early years of homeschooling because of its detailed teacher guides for each subject. It was a fantastic stepping stone for us as I transitioned from teaching to a classroom of 20 students to teaching my daughter at home.
In my daughter’s fifth grade year, we participated in (and I directed) a local Classical Conversations community. The more I learned about classical education, the more I felt like running through the streets shouting: Eureka! I have found a curriculum that fills in the gaps.
I will make a bold statement here that may make my fellow educators in the public and private sectors angry, but it’s true for me and my child, and, based on the dismal testing results, drop-out rates, and remedial classes that an overwhelming number of college freshmen have to take, I believe it to be mostly true across the board:
Much of what I learned in college about teaching children was faulty.
I was taught that memorization is bad, while critical analysis is good. However, how can a child think critically about that which he knows nothing? If he has not memorized the times tables, how can he then think critically about algebraic word problems? How can a child who has not memorized the names of the US Presidents think critically about their individual impacts on our nation? Which Roosevelt came first?
In college (and in my own student experience) I learned that education is divided into different discrete subjects (math, science, reading, language, social studies) and was taught various ways to integrate all subjects into each school day. We learned techniques for transitioning from one subject to the next. Some professors taught us that we could do a “unit study” on a topic and focus all the day’s learning in each subject on the unit study topic at hand. Yet each subject was still thought of as a different discipline, and I still had to allocate classroom time to discrete subject areas in my written lesson plans.
My journey to a more classical approach to education has been gradual as I learned what classical education is, and what it is not. I’m finding that classical education’s purpose is to give students tools for thinking and learning and making connections throughout all disciplines, whether it be in mathematics, the physics of ice skating, the history of the invention of the light bulb…really, about anything under, past, through, and beyond the sun!
What holds all these discrete subjects together and allows them to overlap? Consider this scripture from Proverbs 9:
10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through me your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”
I’ve come to see that the LORD is the source of any wisdom that I am able to impart to my daughter. The wiser we become, the more the glory is reflected on the LORD. It’s not about finding a bible verse to match everything we learn about in school, although that discipline is actually good practice for looking up references. Instead, it is about acknowledging that my child is a whole person, created by God for His purposes. It is not my job as her teacher to open up her head and pour in knowledge. Rather, my job is ultimately to train her how to seek out answers herself…to awaken her curiosity…to encourage her to follow her God-given passions…to give her the freedom to think…and most of all, to model for her the humble way to seek wisdom and knowledge and understanding so that she will have the gift of good judgement.
I like the way Solomon personified Wisdom in his proverbs because it helps me grasp what it is exactly that I need to do to attain it. At the beginning of Proverbs 9, we learn that our access to Wisdom is as simple as accepting her invitation:
1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved its seven columns.
2 She has prepared a great banquet,
mixed the wines, and set the table.
3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come.
She calls out from the heights overlooking the city.
4 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple.
To those who lack good judgment, she says,
5 “Come, eat my food,
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live;
learn to use good judgment.”
It is with good judgment that I have modified my ideas about education and have chosen to follow a more classical journey that will, God willing, lead to my daughter choosing to sit down at Wisdom’s table to partake of the feast the Lord has provided.
Check out my Curriculum Page to see what forms of Wisdom are on tap for the 2011-2012 school year!