We’re not just getting through

27 Feb

I’m the first to admit that I’m a task-master extraordinaire.  I love a good checklist and the ridiculous joy that it brings me to check something off that list, well, it just makes my heart happy. In many areas of my life, getting through the checklist is useful. Laundry, cleaning, working on work things, running errands—a good to do list keeps my scattered brain organized.

However, in educating my children, the checklist mentality is the antithesis of helping to raise my children up to be life-long learners. It works against every single goal that I have for their education and for them as human beings.  Sure, it speeds up the work, but slow downs the opportunities to discuss, to analyze, and to enjoy the content about which we are studying.  It highlights what we have covered, but not what we have learned and that which has helped to formulate our worldview.  It does nothing to articulate what God is doing in our hearts and souls.

Leaving the checklists at the entrance of our schoolroom is so blissful in theory.  In practice, however, phew.  It pains me a little, if I’m being totally honest.  Essentially, it works against every fiber of my being.  I’m forced to work daily at reworking my mindset, so that I can truly shed the ideology that life, that educating my children is not about getting through the checklists. It’s about so much more.

“Educating our children is an offering of love we make to God who was so gracious to bestow them upon us in the first place.” — Teaching from Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace

And in this offering to God, I have a choice of what and how we engage in this business of education. I have the choice to view our curriculum, analyze our use time and set a standard that leads us to God. What a privilege.

“Curriculum isn’t something we buy. It’s something we teach. Something we embody. Something we love. It is the form and content of our children’s language experience. If we started thinking about ‘school’ in terms of encountering certain ideas and mastering certain skills rather than finishing a particular book or ‘covering’ material, we free ourselves to learn far more than we could by binding  ourselves to a set of published resource. Of course we will use such resources to reach our goals, but the resource will be our servant, not our master.”

These words by Sarah Mackenzie are the sweet flutter of peace that lands on my often discouraged heart as I strive to re-think and sharpen my focus on what education is and should look like on a daily basis. In her book, Sarah Mackenzie goes on to say:

“Curriculum…is a set of encounters that form the soul and shape the intellect.”

Yes, yes, and more yes! Being able to look at all of the resources at my disposal—textbooks, living books, projects, workbooks, lesson, experiments and so on—and being able to put together a “plan” for a week, and in some cases 6-8 weeks at a time, I love it. I love it. Truly, being in my schoolroom planning is my happy place. It’s how I roll and I could not fathom getting up every day and learning right along with my kids without this sort of structure.

But what can result in all of this planning is the feeling that we have to get through it all because dang it, it was written in stone in my lesson plan book.  Nevermind if I lose all perspective of what I’m trying to achieve—forming souls and shaping intellect—because we got through my self-imposed list.

Talk about setting myself up for frustration and failure.

As Mackenzie notes, we need to “change the way you access your success.”

And a checked off to-do list does not equal success.

As I have taken on this radical shift in mindset, I’ve come to recognize that the implications of this change, trickle sall the way down to how I talk about school with my kids. No longer am I referring to our school day as, “getting through Latin, math, writing, science and history today,” but instead recognizing that today, we learned 10 new derivatives from Latin which helped my emerging reader gain greater comprehension when he came upon an unfamiliar word in his history book.  In math, Annie exercised the virtue of perseverance as she worked through long division, coming to see beauty in the relationship of multiplication and division. Jonah entered in to the American Revolution, reading Paul Revere’s ride, soaking in the complex structure of poetry and identifying the themes of liberty and justice.

This is about so much more than just getting through. It is slowing the heck down so that the kids can relish in the subjects that we are studying. It’s about setting aside the to do list and gaining the freedom to drop the rest of the “plan” for the day to dive into questions and curiosities that I could not have anticipated. It’s about letting their God-given curiosities lead us.

This ride we are on, it’s thrilling and it changing me, perhaps even more than it is changing them. We are not just getting through. We are becoming the people that God desires for us.  And, that?  Is pretty fantastic.


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