Sunday, May 20, 2007

Okay, I'm a little late but I'm here!

I think I mentioned in my last post that I'm not exactly the picture of domestic organization. But that's really not why I'm a few weeks behind on keeping up this blog. Not entirely, anyway. But the last few weeks actually serve to illustrate just why homeschooling and its inherent flexibility can work so well for families! Our oldest son, an articulate and delightfully motivated 14 year-old, caught the whooping cough virus that has been circulating through the local high school. He attends Jr. ROTC classes there several mornings a week, and I guess that's all it took to come down with it. In the simplest terms, it was pretty awful. It's alwasy disconcerting to see our young ones wiped out by illness, and this is a nastier one than most. I'm so thankful the other boys (almost-2 and 10) didn't come down with it, as this was enough to bring a lot of the usual, somewhat streamlined homeschooling activities to a halt. Not to mention the housework, etc. but let's face it, homeschoolers need to get over the myth of the superwoman even more than moms who choose not to homeschool or who work outside the home. It's just not rational. Really, does the world need another wanna-be Martha? Anyway....
Weeks of rest and recovery, antibiotic therapy (may I just say how much I hate those things, but how much I also love them in a case like this?) and innumerable puffs on an inhaler later, our boy is back on track and once again taking life by the horns. I'm so thankful, and a little amused that now that he's better and we're all back in the swing, I still haven't caught up on the housework or organizing the school room. Who was I kidding? Another precious lesson in self-acceptance for Mom. That's not a bad thing.
So, what was I saying about flexibility? Oh, yea...Charlotte Mason's 'method'. It's important that I spell something out from the beginning: It's really not a method! It's a way of life, focused on the simple truth that children know inherently how to learn, and that it's our privilege and responsibility as parents to simply surround them with opportunities and materials with which to do that learning. The freedom this 'method' allows is incredible! Charlotte believed that children were already inquisitive and hungry for knowledge, and to see themselves and the world through God's eyes. She loved Jesus Christ and the children He so graciously lent her through her educational career, and the 'gentle art of learning' that she espoused proved time and time again to be perfectly suited to a child's growing spirit and intellect. Not only did she teach children in this fashion, but she also trained future teachers at her Ambleside school to use this method. She believed that an education filled with dry, fact-filled textbooks and subjective testing robbed children of the joy of learning, and made them desperately unhappy and unfulfilled in the process. History has proven her to be completely correct in this philosophy, and will continue to do so when its simplicity is applied in the home. Think about it, does a child need to be trained to observe the world around them, or is it something that we see in them very early, only to see the world (and TV and educational bureaucracy) gradually beat it out of them? Why is a 2 year-old automatically enraptured by dandelions and pollywogs, and filled with wonder and questions that lead to more questions about these tiny fascinations? It's because they are molded in the image of their Creator, and as such are designed to marvel at everything He has set in this world to turn their hearts and eyes to Him. That is the true essence of learning: to observe and question, so as to understand who we are and why we're here. As the Westminster Catechism puts it, 'The chief aim of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." And who has God put on earth, to this end, as the primary teaching and guiding institution for children? None other than the family, with parents at the helm to answer those questions by seeking Him themselves. I submit that siblings and extended family members also play a key role in this dynamic, in being there to remind little ones of who they are in His eyes, adding to the cohesiveness that God fully intended for families to demonstrate. Every family member is, in some way, a teacher of younger children. While it may offend some that I say this, there's really no basis for arguing against these facts: family is the primary unit of civilization, by God's design, and as such bears the responsibility for the upbringing, education and safety of children. Not a government institution, and in fact the only time you see in the Bible the transferrance of that role to government institutions is when God's people were in captivity or under occupation. It was certainly never His best, or His command. Quite the opposite, but enough said. It's not necessary to belabor that point, as it wouldn't be such a prickly issue if it wasn't already hitting home on some level with those who get so upset at the idea. My job is simply to correct and encourage where God gives me opportunity, and to do so with conviction and love. I do not judge those who choose not to home educate, but I do grieve on some level for what they are missing out on by not doing so. I have seen it transform our family, deepen our bonds with each other, and foster a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father by placing our family in right order in His established hierarachy. It has to be a personal choice based on willingness to die to self and sacrifice, and to let go of worldly arguments. I can only live out the example, but can not finish in the flesh what God begins in the Spirit.
As a writer, I cringe at the thought of rambling, but I suspect I've done it here today. I'm simply reminded by recent events that God is gracious in the face of life's interruptions and challenges, and that He did not give us more than we could handle in the last few weeks. He's seen us through so much, from tragedies and illnesses, to financial and other challenges that would have made it easy to throw our hands up and agree with the world that 'homeschooling is just too hard!' But that would have been a sad choice to make, and I'm glad that once again He gave us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to leave the books closed for a few days and be content with watching lots of educational videos and listening to music, and calling that school for a while. It fed our spirits and minds just as much, and actually provided a nice respite from what at times can feel like pressure to cram the brain with facts and test scores and what have you. Charlotte would have approved, but more importantly, the Lord approved of how we handled it...we trusted Him, we rested in contentment despite our circumstances, and we waited on Him to renew our strength as His Word promises He will always do. Our dependence was fully on Him, as it should be, and He provided all we needed without distraction. I couldn't ask for anything more.