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Does your Home-Education Philosophy Treat Your Kids as Projects or Individuals?

Growing up in England, I found joy and growth by singing in a choir, joining an after-school entrepreneurs club and eagerly serving in varying capacities in the local church.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I loved to learn and was hungry to grow, but I seemed to be surviving rather than thriving in the traditional British school system in which I was enrolled.

Even though I felt mismatched with the university system, I went anyway. When a professor told me, “You probably won’t get the best degree classification, Leah, but you’ll do well in life. You’re just that kind of person,” I wanted to prove him wrong. But he was right. I was never a standout in the classroom, yet I flourished in everyday activities.

Later, as a mom new to the world of home schooling, I was introduced to the 19th-century British educator Charlotte Mason, and I realized that academic and character growth—not performance—should define education. My discovery shed light on my own development and revolutionized my thinking toward teaching my four kids.

In God’s Image

Charlotte Mason’s method was based in recognizing that children are God’s work, not products of the educational system. They’re born whole and able to connect with the world. Our role as parents is to create an atmosphere and provide stimuli that will bring out the best of who they are. I don’t believe that God places children in our homes for us to dictate who they’ll become; He places them into our lives so we can help them develop into who He already made them to be.

This “born-person” approach to childhood turns the traditional education path on its head. We don’t need to race to catch up. We can slow down and delight in our children.

Person Before Process

When we view children as projects or “someone we must educate,” we’re prone to use standardized curricula, to read texts only for comprehension, and to comply with set answers and laborious testing to ensure that our children “keep up.” When I first started educating my children from home, I stocked up on secondhand readers, math sheets and a Bible study on character.

I used the latter diligently, but the books and pages gradually got lost on our home-school shelves.

As a child, I loved the stories my mum read aloud in the evening, the variety of music my dad played around the house, the classic art on the wall and my journals full of poetry and innocent secrets. When we view children as people with interests, made in the image of God, we’re inclined to take a different view to their gathering of knowledge. We read good stories to our children. We play beautiful music for them. We take them into nature. We introduce them to art. They take time transcribing or reciting their favorite lines from poetry, biographies and the Bible, and we invite them into sincere conversations.

See Before You Say

To believe that our children are “born persons,” we must become observers of them. One of the greatest concerns I hear from home-schooling parents I coach is: “What if they fall behind?”

As Christians, we believe that our kids are born unique. Every hair on their heads is numbered and known by God, and each design on their fingers and toes is distinctive only to them. Yet when it comes to education, we sign up for the narrative that all children should and can learn the same thing at the same time. But it’s simply not true.

All four of my kids learned to read at their own pace, and they responded individually to a variety of tools. One of my sons went through a stage of writing the word avengers repeatedly. Then one day he spelled it out loud and was able to read from that day on. My youngest daughter took the longest to read and tested my convictions about teaching and learning. I used all of my teaching tools on her and was patient. Eventually she learned to decode words—and books finally “clicked.” Her love for reading followed.

Home schooling offers a beautiful opportunity for children to be who they are. The next time you hear a concerned onlooker ask, “But what if they get behind?” you can respond, “Get behind whom?”

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