Education, like so many aspects of life, takes on many forms. Like other great American mothers out there I refuse to shove my child into a hostile environment (aka public school) and instead I choose to home school my three boys. Home schooling takes on many different forms; basically anything from overly structured to completely laid back. The hard part in light of this information is to find a medium that works for our family and individual children. Unlike many institutions our child's differences, strengths, and weaknesses all come into play when we lay out the method of teaching that we use. For example, I have met mothers of preschoolers who have a complete curriculum selected, purchased, and followed in their own homes. I have also met mothers of teenagers who have never purchased a core curriculum and wouldn't use one if you paid them. Is one method better than another? Is one woman's children turning out smarter than the other? Actually, no. I have never met as many boys trained in classical literature, and yet still trained in good work ethic as those taught by an overly dedicated mother (is there such a thing? probably). In fact, the curriculum has little to do with it.
The art of serving snack on a piece of cedar wood
Where is my family in this great spectrum of organized textbooks and flashcards? Somewhere in the middle. Given, Elijah is only 4, so our style is not as evident now as it will be when all four of our children are of school age. There is one thing I do know though: Our style and path in home schooling is different because we have boys. What do I mean by this? Boys are different from girls (for all you feminists out there: it's true, get over it). A parent can see the basic differences in gender by pure observation. When you tell a girl that something is hot she instinctively backs away, while if you tell a boy that it is hot he replies "how hot" and goes to touch it to see just how hot it is. What a wonderful truth! Isn't there a small part of you that would be sad to discover that men really are just the same as women? I am so very glad that men are different. What would we women do if we didn't have a strong man to chop down our firewood, a competitive man to push his way up a corporate ladder, or a problem solving man to fix the car?
Snappy: the baby snapping turtle
How does this realization make educating the next generation of men different? For us I know that work ethic has become just as important a part of the boys education as learning US history. What would I do if I raised a boy who couldn't, wouldn't or didn't want to work? What a sad little loser he would be; knowledge is useless if you are not willing to use it, or if you don't know how to use it. Does this mean that we start our school year out with no plan? Of course not! Goal setting is a part of life and many goals need a good plan, however, we are not slaves to our plans. For example, I would never spend thousands of dollars on a college education if I didn't know what I wanted to major in, how my major and experience will help me after graduation, and if it was God's plan for me; however, that doesn't mean that I cannot change my plan once I have started. It is not someone else's job to lay out a plan for me, especially once I have graduated from high school, and this is why I need to teach my boys how to be the masters of their own education. I can throw all of the books in the world at them, but if I don't help them develop a love of learning, work, God, and life, then I have failed.
So what does our school year look like anyway? A little bit of reading lessons, some number recognition, a lot of arts and crafts, some experimenting with the world around us (everything from nature to people), and a lot of good hard work. Learning is quickly becoming a part of our life in every conversation, walk, and chore. What greater way to teach the boys to love learning than to make it a part of something they have come to love: life.
What have the boys learned? Well come on over and ask them...