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 lesson.

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 solely 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, raising animals, 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 do 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.

 


May I recommend:




I Want to Homeschool

Question:

I really have a passion for wanting to homeschool our 4 children, however my husband and other family members think it would be better for the children and I would be better off sending them to school. Am I showing respect to my husband by dropping the subject and teaching them what I can when they are out of school for sick days and vacations? How can I get my husband to understand how badly I want to do this?

Answer:

I believe that God inspires us, and if you feel a passion for wanting to homeschool, I think that feeling comes from God and you will be blessed if you follow it. It will take courage, but the results will be amazingly wonderful! I am so thankful—so very, very thankful that I homeschool!

How to convince your husband? Well, it depends on what type of a man he is. If you do the research, read things, find statistics for positive results of homeschooling (such as the fact that many of the National Spelling Bee winners were homeschooled, or that more homeschoolers per capita graduate from college and make more money, etc.), will he listen to reason? If you sincerely express your heartfelt feelings and do all you can to be a good, loving, attentive wife, will he want to honor your feelings and allow you your desire? Study out the best approach and patiently go about it, not trying to rush him, just trying to gently win him over. Discuss his concerns and fears and see if you can find a way to quell them. They are his children, too, and he wants them to have the best opportunity.

There is a lot of negative research that shows how awful public school is. I think mucking in the negative is not the right approach. I would rather emphasize the incredible results of homeschooling, the family unity, the smooth sailing during teen years, the love of learning that is ignited in homeschooled children. There is much that you can focus on that is excellent and uplifting.

“Dropping the subject and then trying to teach them when they are out of school for sick days and vacations” does not seem like a good way to honor your husband. It seems like a good way to make your children resent the fact that they have to go to school, plus spend their “time off” in school too! You will bring honor to your husband when your children grow upright, educated and respectful through your diligent teaching and mothering.

How to convince family members? I don’t think there is a need. Please God and be true to yourself. That is all anyone can do. You will never make everyone happy. Besides, even the most critical family members cannot ignore good results, and as your children grow into educated, sensitive, caring, good citizens, some of those critics will become your loyal supporters. The best way I have found to deal with family criticism is just to carry on, be loving with them, and debate it as little as possible. Understand that they care, and just want the best for you, and mean well. They speak out of love, generally. So take their remarks as if they had expressed love, and don’t discuss homeschooling pros and cons with them. Set your own boundary of self-respect—not allowing them to delve into the whys and wherefores. You won’t convince them with words, but “the proof is in the pudding” and when they see your children changing, becoming more mannerly, more respectful, and excited about learning, you won’t have to try to convince anyone.

And, above all, pray! There is a lot of power in consistent prayer.

I want to tell you about my friend. Her husband was dead set against homeschooling, and she yearned to do it so much. She left homeschooling articles on the coffee table. She dropped hints. She pleaded and begged. She cried. She was silent. She tried to do summer school and Christmas vacation school with her kids. Finally, she and I decided to pray every day consistently about softening her husband’s heart. She also determined to fast once a week asking God to touch her husband. Her husband did not know why she was fasting, nor did he know about our prayers. After 3 weeks, her husband was sitting in the living room reading the newspaper one evening while she fixed dinner. Suddenly, he folded the newspaper and said, “Okay, just go ahead and homeschool!”. He said it in a rather irritated tone, as if his conscience had been nagging him. She didn’t care what tone of voice he used—she was just thrilled to have his permission!

Be persistent in your prayers, and prepare yourself to homeschool. Get your school area set up, gather your books and supplies, decorate a bulletin board or a space on the wall. Make school look very fun!  If you intend to teach a science unit on lizards, decorate with a toy lizard and some pictures. Get library books on lizards and let the kids look through them. Go forth getting ready with enthusiasm. If your husband asks about it, say you are exercising faith. Put trust in the fact hat God loves you and your husband loves you and they both want you to have the desire of your heart. Be upbeat and positive about it. It is hard to stop a happy, energetic attempt at doing good.

Best success!

 

Public School or Homeschool?

Question:

I am homeschooling my son and most of the time it is wonderful. We stay very busy running here and there so he can be with other children. Even still, at times, there is some isolation and I wonder if it is the ideal choice for him?  Which is better: public school or homeschool?

Answer:

I’ve tried both worlds (public school and home school) and here is what I deeply believe: young children need to be in the security and moral environment that home provides, with a loving mother teacher. No school can replace that. No education can surpass that. It is not available in any other way, and nothing can make up for a lack in those beginning foundational years. They form the child’s character, his view of the world, his testimony of God, his feelings about his own self worth, his habits. As a wise leader said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home”.

Children need mommies—that is the way God set it up to be. No one loves your child as much as you do. No one cares as much as you do if he grasps a math concept or holds his pencil correctly. Those are small things, but the big things–faith in God, respect for authority, self-discipline, manners, compassion–these things are best taught by someone who loves the child more than life itself. Generally, only one person qualifies for that job description and it is YOU, mother.

Now, on the practical side, it is mother’s job to make sure her multi-dimensional child is getting his needs met: spiritual, mental (academic), physical, social and emotional. And that requires much more than just following an academic program. Homeschooling really should be called “home nurturing” in my opinion, because to grow a child, you have to concern yourself with all elements. If you choose to use the public school to fulfill the mental (academic) and social needs of your child, you are still in charge of the rest, and there is precious little time left after school to nurture them, particularly if you have to do some “undoing” of habits or attitudes that have been picked up in a peer dependent environment. I think it is possible to raise a wonderful child using the public schools. It just requires so much more work, and there are far more casualties! I am not a big risk taker when it comes to my children.

Isolation is a very real issue, and it is not good for children. However, I do believe children need more unstructured time, even time alone, than we realize. Those are the times when you get to know yourself, to think, to dream . . . plus to develop ways to keep yourself happy and involved (hobbies, reading). But too much isolation from other people makes kids sad and lonely. Mom is great, but Mom is not enough. For some children, siblings are not enough either. For these children, it is up to a homeschooling mother to create play groups, attend a support group, get involved in a co-op school, set up a “club” for their child where other children come weekly to learn a skill (art club, horse riding club, etc.).

So what does school away from home provide? Is it worth it in your child’s case? That is the question that you have to ponder and work through. If you see that public school can do something for your child that he needs, then your options are to put him in to get that need met (perhaps part time) or to meet that need yourself.

For myself, here are the answers I came up with, both negative and positive traits of public schooling, all mixed together:

Public School:

Academic/Mental

  1. easy on Mom because the responsibility for their learning is left with the school
  2. child gets another teacher figure in their life besides mom, which may be helpful
  3. kids may work better for another teacher
  4. moves at a slower rate . . . wow, much slower!
  5. takes the fun out of learning because of the “hurry and wait” mentality
  6. hard to specialize learning to each child’s level; child gets lost in the crowd
  7. better than nothing, if that is what you are teaching in your home school due to sickness, overload, lack of education of the mother, lack of time, etc.
  8. homework can take up the evenings, and you end up teaching them anyway, only under duress and not the stuff you wanted to teach them, generally.
  9. bells or schedules can interrupt true learning and teach children not ever to get deeply involved.

Spiritual

  1. offers zilch as far as learning to know God, to trust God, to keep his commandments
  2. school may have some rules on manners or respect for authority that would teach an unruly child if their own mother was not able
  3. if teacher reads classic literature to the class, there may be some worthy truths taught in those stories
  4. figure that early American history will be dished up without one mention of God’s amazing intervention in our behalf!
  5. no teacher can tell the real stories of how George Washington was “bulletproof” and God-protected, according to his enemies, and how his the answer to his prayer at Valley Forge made us Americans rather than Englishmen today.
  6. remember that Humanism is the religion of the school.

Physical

  1. school is not the environment to nurture healthy eating habits
  2. candy abounds, is used to reward kids
  3. lunch is the time to compare who has the best junk food
  4. kids are rushed to eat in a noisy environment and don’t really eat a full meal, a lot of food is just thrown away
  5. a packed lunch is a test of “cool”. Socially acceptable=pudding cups, fruit snacks (that are really thinly disguised gummy type candy), chips, candy bars, cheetos, soda pop to drink (I am not kidding!)
  6. group games, sports at P.E. is fun for them and gives them exercise (usually not daily, however)
  7. learn to play as a team
  8. “Say ‘No’ to Drugs” program (might teach them more than I want them to know, however!)
  9. physical body reigns supreme (rather than moral character and goodness)—lots of emphasis on beauty, body, prowess in sports, coordination, decorating the body with name brands, styles
  10. sitting for long periods
  11. go out in fresh air daily to run around for recess, which is more than some homeschool kids get

Social/Emotional

  1. school is where the kids are, most definitely
  2. there are good kids in every class, so there is possibility for finding friends
  3. peer dependency is sick and affects every word and action
  4. a good teacher can teach a child to be orderly, quiet, diligent in completing their work
  5. lots of negative stuff comes from the kids, as many American children have been raised on PG13 movies, and other worldly influences
  6. to be cool, you have to be in the know (movies, TV, music, pop stars, fads)
  7. lots of practice on getting along, which is a good thing
  8. lots of practice on tolerance of other people and their beliefs and mannerisms
  9. bullies
  10. even though much of the socialization is negative, kids are around other kids at school
  11. bad behavior is not condemned (cattiness, sticking out tongue, burping aloud, making rude comments,
  12. criticizing others, laughing when someone is hurt, etc.)
  13. group mentality nearing hysteria takes over at times. For example, if the teacher asks the group a question, children look around to see what their peers are saying, rather than thinking for themselves.
  14. negative energy builds up. That is why many young kids cry or argue when they are picked up from school.

This is just my brainstorm of ideas. Some schools are much better than others. Your own child has unique needs. Only by studying out his needs will you be able to know who can meet them best (public school or homeschool, or some other option). We only get one shot at raising our children, and those foundation years have a tremendous effect on the outcome! I pray we will all choose wisely!