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, that’s not exactly the case. If an actual unschooler visited our home, I’m sure they would say I was doing it wrong.
Here’s the thing. During my homeschooling years with my older children, I drifted 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 inspired my children. As the years passed, I believed we were much more likely to meet a leprechaun riding a unicorn than to find 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.
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. But, know that if you claim to “do” Classical education (or Charlotte Mason, etc.), you’re attaching yourself to a set of guiding principles and methods that tend to take over. Even the looser approaches to learning come with manifestos that explain how we should do things if we want to qualify as members. In any case, what we are choosing to follow is usually a manmade program that doesn’t take into account God’s plan for the individual. How could it?
In the end, whatever we do should be God’s will and God’s way. Therefore, the bottom line for me is this: I no longer desire to place myself in a cage when the Lord offers us wide open pastures. I do not wish to carry a banner, adhere to a formula, or conform our experience to an educational philosophy, no matter how perfect it sounds. I’ve come to this place realizing that an unpredictable God often asks us to do unexpected things, and our dependence on programs can interfere with that. Instead, I want to follow God in life and in learning with Mark 12 as our 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; we are always trying to keep our ducks in a row as if we were the ones in control. But, I’ve found that God perfectly choreographs both the dancers and the dance as it happens on our stage. And, He does it so much better than I ever could.
Still, I can assure you that there are indeed times when my daughter is expected to listen and follow instruction. There are also times when I “nudge” her into new areas of learning. I suppose this is where I deviate from unschooling in its purest form. However, I never intervene based on age or grade level dictations. Instead, I respond to the readiness shown through her line of questioning or to something I observe that might need correction. I also move according to my conversations with God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. 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).
Lately, God has been changing things a bit. Up until now, we’ve been focused primarily on spreading attention among the heart, soul, body, and service with the “mind” skills interwoven (the basic 3-R’s ). It’s been a sort of “retraining” experience for me, a necessary “deschooling.” Recently, however, my daughter has started asking for more—she wants to learn and I am prompted by God to oblige.
This is what I was looking for and trying to make happen in previous years. This is what God has been rousing in her—the desire to learn.
I will continue to use projects and life’s real moments to practice skills like math, reading, and spelling, but now I’ll be a little more deliberate in these areas. I’m also adding some focus to our explorations with Beautiful Feet’s History of Science Study Guide (history AND science – a ‘two-fer’). However, we will work through it at a slower pace than the outline suggests so that our days can be open for other things. For example, my daughter has an interest in learning about different countries and cultures—a trailhead study with countless educational offshoots—so I’m giving her time to explore those trails as well.
Even with all this fine-tuning, I’m keenly aware that I have NOT been given an invitation to pile on academics in the way we’re accustomed to doing. Our center of focus will remain relationship-building with God (the heart) while balanced attention is 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.
Words can’t describe how excited I am to be entering into this next phase with God lighting our way. I had been perfectly content to go wherever God’s wind blew, if that was His will. But I’m looking forward to landing in one place from time to time to explore God’s creation in deeper ways. My daughter has picked up the basic learning tools and is ready to expand upon them. What an incredible way to live and learn! We are beyond blessed!