One of the first questions asked of new homeschoolers is: What approach are you using? It’s a reasonable question that helps veteran homeschoolers tailor their curriculum advice (which is the direction this conversation inevitably turns). But, are we laying a snare for these inexperienced families right out the gate? It seems to me we’re awfully quick to steer people toward philosophies of education instead of toward God Himself!
If you’ve spent any time at all browsing my website, you know that I write unashamedly about the freedoms of a God-led education. You’ve probably also picked up on my general distaste for the narrow parameters of schooling that we cling to without question. Because of this, you might also assume that I’ve rejected all boundaries and structure and I’ve chosen to unschool my daughter. Well, based on the original definition of unschooling, there are definitely similarities. The key here, however, is that I don’t pay any attention to the tenets of unschooling or use it as my guide.
Here’s the thing…
When I was homeschooling my older children, I went from one approach to another, trying to find the right fit. There was boxed curriculum, Classical education, Charlotte Mason, TJed, relaxed, unschooling, eclectic, and so on. I was searching for that elusive love of learning, and yet no single approach ever led us to that magical place; none fully met our needs and none ever really inspired my children. As the years passed, it felt like we had a better chance of meeting a leprechaun riding a unicorn than of discovering actual joy in our schooling.
It was only when I turned to God (and God alone) as THE guiding force in our learning process that everything fell into place.
Now, don’t get me wrong—there are merits to be found in all those different options. In fact, God may tell you to use one AFTER seeking Him first. But, know that if you claim to “do” Classical education (or Charlotte Mason, etc.), you’re essentially attaching yourself to a set of guiding principles and methods that ultimately rule over our schooling. Even looser approaches to learning come with manifestos (written or unwritten) that explain how we should do things if we want to qualify as members. In any case, what we are choosing to follow is a manmade program that doesn’t take into account God’s plan for the individual. How could it? It’s the mentor’s triangle turned upside-down!
In the end, whatever we do should be God’s will and God’s way. So, the bottom line for me is this:
I have no desire to limit, confine, or regulate my daughter’s learning when the Lord is offering us wide open pastures.
Nor do I desire to carry a banner, adhere to a formula, or conform our experience to an educational philosophy, no matter how perfect or logical it sounds.
I came to this place of understanding once I acknowledged that an unpredictable God will often ask us to do unexpected things, and our dependence on programs interferes with that. In a sense, we voluntarily put on headphones; our thoughts are filled with the blaring noise of schooling so that God’s voice can no longer be heard.
No thank you. We’ve decided to “unplug” and follow God’s Mark 12 foundational “structure.” Period.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:14-15)
Coming at education in this way opens doors. We are free to act on the opportunities God places before us as well as the ones He lays on our heart. His presence and His participation are clearly visible in these moments!
Throughout my daughter’s K-2 years (to use familiar terms), her knowledge and understanding grew mainly through questioning and exploration. I know this sounds much too fluid and formless for some people’s comfort; after all, we are always trying to be in control. But, I’ve found that when I let God lead, He perfectly choreographs both the dancers and the dance exactly as it’s meant to be on our stage. And, He does it so much better than I ever could.
I can assure you that God does not lead by disorder and chaos.
In fact, there are indeed times every day now when my daughter is expected to listen and to follow instructions. There are also times when I “nudge” her into new areas of learning. However, when I do this, it’s always in response to God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not according to any age or grade level dictations. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26). I am able to act upon my daughter’s questions or something that needs correction (like her mixing up “F” sounds with “TH”) by addressing the issue with a bite-size lesson. I give her portions she’s able to digest and use instead of force-feeding her buckets of theories and facts. As with any growing child, the size and variety of these portions gradually increases with age.
I’ve seen this reality play out perfectly in recent months. In fact, my daughter has now started asking for more—she wants to learn and I am prompted by God to oblige.
This is what I was looking for in previous years with my older kids. This is what I was trying to make happen.
But, ultimately, God is the one who has sparked her desire to learn.
I will continue using projects and life’s real moments to fine-tune her skills in math, reading, and spelling because that’s still a need at this time. But more and more, she is able to USE those tools to explore other subject areas. One way I’m doing this is by introducing a unit study—Beautiful Feet’s History of Science Study Guide (history AND science – a ‘two-fer’). However, we’re working through it at a much more leisurely pace than the outline suggests so our days can be open for other things (like a weekly science experiment day with a couple of friends).
Even with these changes, I’m keenly aware that I have NOT been given an invitation to pile on academics in the way we’re accustomed to in school. Our center of focus remains relationship-building with God (the heart) with balanced attention given to the soul, mind, body, and service. Helping my daughter to develop her gifts and equipping her for life with practical skills like cooking, sewing, household tool use, etc. are a high priority, too. That’s what I call a well-rounded education, and it’s something the ‘mind’-dominated school curriculum just doesn’t allow. Sadly, a lot of the popular homeschool approaches don’t really allow for them either.
Words can’t describe how excited I am to be following God on this journey and how rich our experience has already been! My daughter is thriving and eager to learn—we are beyond blessed!