Thursday, November 20, 2014
how valuing life permeates through every area- especially education
From the beginning, Ben and I agreed to raise our children as little people. While children certainly are not born brilliant, they don't require us to dumb everything down in order for them to understand. In many ways we feel like doing so does a disservice to children. We want to send a message that says, "We are confident that you can learn. You are bright and have the ability to understand as much as you want."
Practically, at an early age, that means speaking in regular language. Others often comment on Isaac's insane vocabulary. For a preschooler, the kinds of words he understands and uses regularly impress me (and others) greatly. I can't definitively say that it's because of the way we talk to him, but I would definitely put my money on that. We have normal, not kiddie, conversations with our children. We use big words in our home and we use them often. As our kids become familiar with their use, as with any other word, they begin to grasp it's meaning and will eventually feel confident using them themselves. As they get older and are better with conversation, if they don't understand a word being used, they simply ask, "mommy, what does industrious mean?"
Isaac is bright. And not at all because of what I have done but because of how God made him. God has ordained Isaac with a specific purpose. I don't know what that purpose is but I can tell you that it's something that requires Isaac to be quick, to desire lots and lots of knowledge, to seek out answers to even the most mundane questions, to be incredibly observant but simultaneously cautious. Ben and I are determined to foster those characteristics. And in doing so, our hope is that he will grow and develop into the person God designed him to be now and who he will become as he matures. That is our role as his parents.
Now, I don't know that I've talked much on the blog about our decision to home school. The decision has been made for years and for several reasons, most of which I'm not going to get into right now. But I what I wanted to share is the method we've settled on for schooling and the most important "why?". Honestly, this "why" affects far more than how I've educated and will continue to educate my children. What it truly all comes down to is that my view of all people affects how I interact with and educate my own children day in and day out.
Every single person has value from the moment of conception on. Each human being has value and a purpose and was intimately created and is intimately known by our Creator God. We are each important, dignified and made in God's beautiful image.
Little did I know that there was a woman, an educator, who lived a long time ago, who had the same view of children, and who was able to put her beliefs into better words than I ever could. (Actually, I hadn't even stopped to think about why I treat my children the way I do in regards to education, it just flows out as a result of something I believe so strongly.)
Her name was Charlotte Mason and it is her method of education that we will adhere to in our home.
At the core of what Charlotte believed was this: children are persons. Sounds simple enough right? Of course children are persons. They are living, breathing, thinking, talking human people. It would be crazy to suggest otherwise. But what she means is more than that they simply exist as human beings.
I have a degree in psychology, a degree I have used a grand total of zero times. But when I was in school, we often had the discussion about the different theories of child development, particularly in the early, early years. And one theory, suggested by John Locke, is that children are born as a tablua rasa. I'm sure you're familiar with the term. It means "blank slate." In other words, Locke theorized that children begin with nothing and are then molded and shaped over time. Essentially, his surroundings, the people in his life: parents, teachers, those with heavy influence, and life events, write on that tablet and make a child into the person they are over time.
But what Mason suggests, and what is spelled out in scripture, is that children have unique and distinct personalities, characteristics, desires, fears and a purpose from the beginning. In fact, God designs us with a purpose in mind. He knits us together with unique abilities and skills on purpose. He sets us apart for a specific purpose and set of "good works" while we are still within our mother's womb. Every single child is a distinct and individual person, just as you and I are individual people. He is. Yes, he will grow and learn and develop over time, but even as a small and incapable person, he is entirely different and unique from any other.
And because this is the case, every child matters. Each and every child has value.
If Christianity is indeed true, then every last little child matters. Bright to dull, privileged or from any variety of troubled background, each is valuable. Persons matter. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake
So the question arises: is this how we view children today? Does our education system view children this way?
Macaulay (Charlotte Mason expert and author quoted above. Considering home school? Are you a teacher? Read her book!!) argues no, absolutely not. And not only should our system view children in this light, it should be the very foundation for educating children. The problem with our current system is that it views children as "a cog in a machine." Children are valued now in terms of money, not in terms of their intrinsic value. As a society we view people in terms of their economic value. Can they make money? Pay taxes? Contribute to the collective? If not, they are of little or no value. This, of course, has many far-reaching implications but for the sake of our discussion today, we'll stick to simply how it affects how we educate children.
We don't value life anymore, at least not in the way God values life.
As Macaulay discusses, there used to be a Christian foundation for education in our nation, but that no longer exists. There are many, many answers to the question of why, but one in particular is that there is no longer a Christian basis for how we view life, and therefore the child. We don't care to educate the child as an individual because we don't care about the child as an individual. And that's not to say we don't care about children. Obviously we do. But, if we truly believed that each child is unique, that she has a different learning style, different desires and passions, different fears and concerns, different ways of understanding the things around her, different questions, a different set of skills than her classmate and if we truly valued all of those things, if we truly believed that each and every single one of those things matter, then education would look entirely different than it does today. The classroom would be designed very differently.
But it's not.
And that is why we plan to home school and to use Charlotte Mason's method. I look at my children and I see all of those things I've just listed. I assure you, teachers would suggest Isaac be drugged so that he can sit still for absurd amounts of time. Eli would be sent home often for removing his pants. Stella would get a green sticker every day for good behavior because she is gentle and reserved. But all 3 of them are so distinctly different from one another. And each one deserves individual attention and space to learn and grow and develop in their own style and their own way.
I strongly desire to nurture my children's individual strengths, passions, and purposes in an environment that will never be ideal, but that will always be on their side. I desire to instill in them a love of learning that will cause them to seek out knowledge and truth in a way that will encourage their God-given abilities, skills and desires.
And for those reasons, I will educate my children at home.
Much of what I discussed in this post is from Macaulay's book For the Children's Sake. I also highly recommend Home Education by Charlotte Mason.