When I say the word homeschool, what comes to mind? For many of us, school is synonymous with academics: reading, writing, math, history, science, etc. Yet, when we focus solely on these things, we miss so much. There’s far more to educating our children than academics, but how do we make the mental shift? By thinking of life as a classroom, by understanding we are always in “teaching” mode, we can suddenly find our home education reaching to new depths.
Children aren’t born inherently knowing how the world works. As adults with two or more decades under our belt, it’s easy for us to simply expect understanding in the simple things. We forget that we ourselves learned them somewhere along the line.
As a fun way to understand, let’s take things from the perspective of our children. As I write this, I’m thinking specifically of my five-year-old, but the same concepts can be applied at any age. When he jumps out of bed in the morning, he is excited to start the day. He doesn’t understand the concept of being quiet and not waking others. If he is excited and ready to face the day, the thought that not everyone else is ready at the same time and in the same way might not occur to him, so someone has to teach him.
Uh, oh! I found a messy concoction of soap, lotion, and water in a cup on the bathroom counter. It’s easy for me to get frustrated at the waste and the mess, but to my son it is simply a convenient way to wash, lather, rinse, and moisturize all in one step. I have to teach him that it’s best not to do science experiments in the bathroom without permission. And, when we wash our hands we use only one pump of soap, then dry them and use only one pump of lotion. There is no reason to use more. The hand washing steps aren’t as effective if they are all done at the same time. All of this is a revelation to him. He must be taught. These types of lessons are not inherently born into children.
Where and when to throw balls, how to talk to others, where to put the toilet paper, how to make a bed, how to set the table, proper table manners, how to tidy a room, how to ride a bike, what to do when things aren’t going our way, how to handle strong emotions, and even how to learn about the things we want to know: All of this has to be learned; yet, unlike academics, we often expect them to be inherent. It is easy to lose patience and tell our kids something once without using the same care and giving the same opportunities to practice that we would for academic learning.
Interpersonal and life skill gains are crucial, but when life becomes the classroom, we can also learn about physics on a family bike ride, history while reading a great book, math while at the grocery store, reading all the time, and writing as we interact with pen pals.
It’s much easier for many of us to plan out lessons and work to meet specific objectives, but to let life be a classroom, we need to trust God to fill our insecurities. We need to be willing to admit we don’t have answers and seek them out with our children. We need a measure of strength and patience that only comes from above, and we need to be willing to sit back and watch as the joy of a child finding his spark and place in the world begins to unfold.