Friday, September 11, 2009

Inspiration for Homeschoolers

This is beautifully written - a message that is important, especially for larger homeschooling families (and really, for any family with young children). I got it from a somewhat-local Catholic homeschool group, and it came from this blog (although I cannot find the particular post). Enjoy!

And I apologize for the messed-up formatting... I can never get it to look right when I copy/paste into my blog...

The Baby IS The Lesson

One morning on my daily walk, I was fretting and stewing over what I could
possibly do with my one-year-old during school time. I was feeling some despair
with a new baby on its way. I couldn't see any end to the disruption of babies
in my home school for many years to come. I was praying and scheming at the same
time: I could wait until the baby's nap to teach school, I could rotate the
children with baby-sitting chore away from our schoolroom, I could get a playpen
. . . all solutions that didn't feel right--babies needs their moms!

As I walked and pondered, suddenly the Lord introduced one sentence to my mind
and revolutionized my mindset entirely! "The baby IS the lesson!" I thought I
was trying to teach Math, but in reality I had been teaching, day by day, how an
adult values the precious gift of children. My children, by watching how I deal
with the frustration of a crying baby or keep a toddler happy and busy with some
of his "own" pieces while we play a math game, are soaking up "the lesson".
Unfortunately, I had occasionally been teaching that the baby interrupts our

How to be a Christlike person is the most valuable lesson a child could ever
learn! The lesson is learned moment by moment; watching a parent being patient,
handling frustration with kindness, pressing on for the goal in spite of
numerous interruptions, valuing each child's needs regardless of inconvenience.
That valuable insight--how Mother handles the baby is the real lesson--has
dramatically changed how I view my home school. I am teaching foremost my
values: godly character, kindness, respect for others, individuality, sacrifice
and a host of other Christlike attributes. Teaching them reading, writing, math,
etc. is very important to me but my perspective has been altered. "Mimic me,
follow me and I will show you the way a Christlike person acts and what he
values". That is the message every parent relays to their children whether they
are aware of it or not. Children try to copy everything anyway (our mannerisms,
our daily activities, etc.). We must
be certain that we are providing a correct pattern for them to copy, not only
in our daily activities but in our attitude, our tone of voice, and our facial
expression. We need to conduct our lives so that we can say "follow me". If our
children are to "buy" our values, what a tremendous responsibility we have to
make sure we are living our best so the lesson is clear and well learned! What
more could you ask for from your homeschool than to produce Christlike people?!

Teaching your children basically means getting your own personal life in order
and striving daily to be the leader for them to follow. Of course, we fall short
and they must look to Christ for the perfect being but they need to see daily
how one acts, speaks, lives, solves problems. We are acting as a proxy, in a
sense, for Christ. Since they can't have his daily role model, then he has given
his children parents to be an example, to point the way. Along with lesson
preparations, we need to prepare ourselves by asking: is the pattern I live the
way Christ would act? Can I say today that I have marked the path for my
children to follow? Children learn from seeing their parent's role model.
Watching an adult make a simple mistake (such as being too punitive with a
child) and go through the process of repenting is 100 times more effective than
your devotional lesson on repentance. This means children must be intimately
involved with you in your daily life.
A few hours a day after school won't do it.

Children should be involved in the adult's life rather than daily life rotating
around the children. Research has shown that children who have grown up to be
productive well-adjusted adults are those who have been drawn into the parent's
world; their daily activities, work, and interests; rather than having parents
who centered their world on the child. When I began home schooling, I never
could find the time to do the things I felt were important for my life; such as
writing in my journal, corresponding with relatives, studying my scriptures, and
more. Somehow, in my busy-ness of trying to teach the kids how to write in their
journals, I was neglecting my own journal writing. Thankfully, we now have
journal writing time in school daily, and we write letters to relatives together
as a family on Sunday. Homeschool life should help parents do the daily
necessities, rather than usurp the time needed for them. Home maintenance,
chores, food preparation,
gardening, food preservation, budgeting, clothing care (mending and sewing),
planning family social relationships, caring for small children, record keeping,
quilting, wallpapering, etc. are all wonderful life skills that can be done
together that enhance a child's education!

The parent's joyful task is to lead and guide the child into the real world--not
set up a contrived pseudo-world to teach skills that the children would easily
learn if they spent their time around adults who were striving to live good
lives. What constitutes an adult trying to live a "good life"? Being a
productive adult would constitute a full-time curriculum! Plant a garden, read
good literature, serve the needy, be politically aware, keep a journal, vote for
honest men, develop your talents, etc. The exciting part about leading a child
into the real world is that they are self-motivated. The moment I sit down to
play the piano, all my children want to play and want me to teach them to play
something. No sooner than I begin typing on the computer, I have the whole
family "needing" to type. My efforts at writing have, humorous to me, stimulated
the production of "books" from my youngest children. Modeling is so much more
effective than lecturing.

Studies show that the biggest determining factor for a child's success in
reading in school is if they have seen a parent reading in the home on a regular
basis. This is especially true for boys if the parent who reads is their father,
rather than their mother. Somehow, the example says far more about the value of
reading than endless hours in school reading groups.

In every area, it takes instruction to teach skills to little people. Children
need to master the basic academic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic), social
manners, music competence, and a host of other abilities and that does take
focused concentration and time from mother/teacher to accomplish. It isn't
realized just by living in a family. But shared family life practices and
contributes to those skills. Having taught my little girl the numbers and the
plus, minus and equal signs and how they worked, she jumped right into figuring
out how many plates she needed to set the table using her new skills: ("We have
9 and the boys are gone to college so that is minus 3, so we need six").

When we think of homeschool, sometimes we get tunnel vision, and think
"academics", "keeping up to speed" and other worrisome concerns that don't
really tell the whole story. Homeschool is the growing and nurturing of fine,
upright people. So, how we treat and value the baby really is the lesson.

Class never dismissed.

-Diane Hopkins

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