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During a teaching seminar I heard a speaker ask, “Who was your favorite teacher?” He went on to say that more than likely the teacher that we, the audience, thought of “broke the mold.” More than likely that teacher took you out of the classroom, read out loud to you, or taught in a way that made learning different. Mrs. Kennington, one of my elementary school teachers, is who popped into my mind. She had our class do a group research project on early-American history, and we used our work on the project for our class play at the end of the year. She made history come alive for me and made learning practical.
So that is something that I have tried to do as a homeschool teacher. I want the boys to have a “Mrs. Kennington” year, every year, for every grade. But how does that practically play out? Where are the lesson plans for that kind of school?
Teaching can be a daunting job, and we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves as teachers. There are so many options on curricula, so many textbooks to choose from, with varying standards that we want to achieve. And rightly so, we should strive for excellence in all we do; however, all this pressure can make us lose sight of the real purpose of education. We often feel stressed reaching for perfection, but instead maybe we should strive for purpose. In my experience, when children learn the purpose of something, they own the concept.
A funny example and family story my dad loves to tell: Picture Hudson at around age 7 at a family dinner at my parents’ house in Florida. My dad sits down beside Hudson with a glass of orange soda. Hudson looks at his glass of water and then to my dad’s glass of orange soda and says, “I know that [orange soda] isn’t good for my body, but I want some.” Hudson was learning the purpose behind our drink choice for him even though he may not have been convinced of it yet. : )
So here are a few purpose themes we have tried to develop over the years in our family that we believe will be beneficial to both students and teachers, whether you homeschool or not:
This is taken from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and has become our family filter in how we do life. If this is truly our purpose, it will shape how we look at how we spend our time in all aspects. Sometimes it is easy in our culture to compartmentalize our life into ministry, work, home, family, free time, school, and so on. But that isn’t a biblical view. If we think to ourselves, “Sure, I want to glorify God at church and in my workplace, but my free time is my free time,” then we are not seeing all life as life. Some of it belongs to God, but other parts are still ours. All of life should be spent in pursuit of our goal as believers.
A good Bible foundation and understanding of doctrine are the most important part of our school day. This will shape our worldview on all other subjects. If our children don’t understand the foundation of learning, it can make the task seem pointless. God is at the foundation of every subject, and when our children understand that all their hard work and diligence in learning phonics, learning to count, learning to read, learning geography, learning history, learning the art of writing works together prepares them for what God wants them to do, there is purpose.
God is the author of our language, and because of that we want to understand it, use it well, and be able to communicate clearly with it.
God is the author of time, of all people groups, and when we study our country’s history and our world’s history we can learn how God has worked among the peoples of the world throughout all generations. He is at work today and continues to ordain leaders, raise up nations, and cause nations to fall.
There is order in all things and there are absolutes that show us that order. This is consistent with the character of God—He doesn’t change and is dependable.
These are just a few quick examples of how we can show our children purpose in every subject. Their lives count for Christ now, and they have been given the big job of learning.
When the concept of obedience is played out, it makes our day as parents easier; however, that isn’t the ultimate goal. We want our children to hear our voice, listen to what we are saying, and obey quickly. I know at age 0–3, this can seem like the impossible task and can take the patience of a saint, but it is worth it in the long run. As a parent, this is the concept that you have to be sold on. You have to see the purpose in this one and own it. We know ultimately that a life spent in submission to God under His protection is the only life to lead. We want to spare our children the consequences of living a life outside of that protection, so we want to cultivate an attitude of obedience early on. We teach our little ones this concept so that they are a joy to us now but also so that they will listen to their Heavenly Father and obey Him in years to come. We don’t want them furrowing their brow at the Lord and screaming “No!” ten years from now, so we teach them the purpose of authority in their lives now.
Understanding this point takes a few years, but it is a lesson worth developing. We have so much knowledge at our disposal and that isn’t true of all the language groups of the world. Sometimes learning seems like a chore, and sometimes we take for granted privileges that are afforded to us. Our family has really come to see that in a new way as we look at the shelves of books and resources that are printed in our own language in comparison to the small stack our team is trying to add to in our tribal friends’ language.
There can certainly be a “jump through the school hoops” mentality out there. Check off all your boxes and get to the next educational level. If you believe that learning is a privilege, then you won’t be content to learn in order to check off a box, you will continue to learn outside of school hours, outside in your backyard, over the summer, on the weekends, during a holiday because wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you can learn something. All the things you learn can benefit you and be used in the future to fulfill your purpose!
Morgan is turning 18 years old soon and these concepts weren’t all in place when we started kindergarten. I never want to come across like I have always had all my ducks in a row. There were plenty of scattered duck days! So take heart, there is no condemnation among friends, just prayers for each other and ideas we have learned from that help for today. Happy schooling!
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