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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Homeschooling with a Vision

    April 28, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]M[/dropcap]ystie wrote a wonderfully thoughtful post on Saturday. This is her addition to the weaknesses-of-homeschooling conversation that I’ve been tempted to participate in {I keep waiting to see if someone more experienced writes on my topic}.

    Here is my favorite part:

    Education is an atmosphere, and it is a life. Life — including education — should be holistic. So what keeps nagging me in the back of my mind whenever I concur with these truths? It is a fear that life will just happen, that circumstances will rule, that life will be reactive to chaos instead of measured, purposeful, and intentional. My fear is that each day will slip by, seeming to be full, and 20 years from now I will look back and wonder what the days were full with, because there is no fruit yielded, because it turned out I was only reacting, cleaning up messes, wasting time, then cleaning up the messes that ensued while I refused to pay attention — and thus no viable seeds were sown.

    And also:

    Schools, by their nature, are routine, structured, intentional; plans are made and executed. Teachers teach because it’s their job. I taught classes while suffering {mild} morning sickness during two pregnancies — because I was being paid, kids showed up, and there were expectations. I sucked it up and met the expectations. Would I do that if it was just everyday life? My own life. My own kids. My own home.

    Homeschooling with a Vision

    My first thought upon reading this is that this is what I fear most concerning my entire life. I have been pregnant, nursing and/or raising tiny babies for just under eight years. This means I have spent the majority of my time being brain-dead and/or nauseated. The fruit of such labors is four smiling faces, but I’m glad I took pictures because I remember far less than I like to admit. I am also occasionally haunted by the fear that my oldest, especially, was cheated out of something intangible and undefined due to my inability to be supermom while pregnant and recovering from C-sections.

    But here we are, still on this road, for better or for worse. I have been tempted to quit many times for various reasons. One of the things that has kept me on the road so far {not that we’ve gotten very far down the path at all, for we haven’t} is knowing that the reasons for why we do what we do transcend this moment in time, this specific frustrating circumstance.

     

    Naming Our School

    I found additional motivation this past summer when we were compelled by law to name our school. The state of California doesn’t technically have homeschools, but rather small, family-centered private schools, which need to choose a name for use when filing waivers.

    Well, now here was something fun!

    Si and I discussed our school, our goals for it, and how our name could express these ideas.

    This was the day that Whetstone Academy was born.

    Now, I know that the primary definition of “academy” is an institution of secondary learning, but there are other definitions, and one is simply a fellowship of learning. This is the definition we were going for. In fellowship with one another, with other families in our community, with members of our church, and also with the greatest minds of the Western world, we set out into a life of learning.

    A life which, incidentally, didn’t begin in first grade {which we call Year One} and won’t end at graduation. At least not if we can help it.

    The word “whetstone” is possibly even less accurate than the word “academy” as no one is sharpening knives during school time.

    However, comma.

    The word “whetstone” likewise has a secondary definition, and that is anything which sharpens. A proper education sharpens the mind and also the soul. Is it not so that we say in our culture that someone is “sharp” when they are showing intelligence? This is what we mean here. We are taking little minds and sharpening them. But also we sharpen character and spirit and skill and so on because we know that memorizing math facts is not all that there is to life.

    Children are souls, we hope not to forget it.

    So that is the history of Whestone, more properly called Whetstone Academy.

     

    A Scripture-Inspired Mission

    Our school verse, on the other hand, was not the result of a deliberate process, but rather something I noticed around Christmas time when we were studying the birth and youth of Christ Jesus. There are a couple verses in Luke which describe Jesus’ maturation process. My favorite is Luke 2:52:

    And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

    With this verse came my desire for Si to design a seal for our school, a seal with three simple Greek words around it: σοφια {sophia, meaning wisdom}, ηλικια {helikia meaning physical stature or maturity or a state of being fit for adulthood} and χαριτι {charis, meaning affording of joy, charm, loveliness, and goodwill}. Or, perhaps, we’d put it in English and just say wisdom, stature, favor.

    Wisdom is a very broad word, biblically speaking. The idea is one of skill. So spiritual wisdom would be the ability to make righteous decisions, but the broad sense is more general. Composers, carpenters, and cooks, all can have wisdom in that they are skilled in their labors. We desire to develop a broad skill set for our children, focusing on, but not limited to, the skills gained through studying the traditional liberal arts, grammar, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, geometry, mathematics and music.

    Stature involves physical development. This would point to our responsibility as parents to properly nourish the child, and also our responsibility to provide physical growth opportunities and to train the child to be fit for adulthood in general. The world has an ample supply of very tall, grown-looking children. Stature would focus on holistic development, meaning not forgetting the physical part of the child in the midst of bookish study.

    Favor is something we can only help with since the Greek word, as used in Scripture, actually pinpoints the work of God in the soul. It is God who saves us and transforms us into pleasant, loving people who are worthy of favor, of goodwill. However, as parents, Si and I can commend our children to others by teaching them manners, instructing them in the things of the Lord, and guiding them into a proper relationship with the world around them.

     

    Why Does This Matter?

    When I start to wonder about possibly losing myself along the way, or losing the way altogether, I am really sensing my own weakness. When I am letting circumstance dictate our lives and our education, I am forgetting the call to take dominion. Sure, there are times when it is right to roll with life’s punches. Perhaps a defect of institutional schooling is that it rarely stops for things which are deserving of a pause. But when I head the direction of a life which is essentially chaotic and reactionary, I am, as Mystie rightly pointed out, in Big Trouble.

    The reason why I detailed our “mission verse” and school name is because having a vision has done wonders for me as I make daily decisions about our schooling. When life gets really chaotic, having a framework like “wisdom, stature, favor” from which to begin helps me discern and discard the excess. Having a name with a purpose actually causes me to ask certain questions which keep me on track: Does this sharpen our minds or souls or spirits? Are we acting as a fellowship of learners? And so on.

    There are other, more concrete tools, to help me combat the weaknesses of my flesh. A daily chart helps me stay on track, for example.

     

    Keeping the Fear

    Perhaps the scariest thing in life is not being scared. Ours is a casual culture. There is no propriety {or impropriety}, and it is tempting to view Jesus as a best friend rather than Lord. Just as there is cause to approach the throne of God with reverence, which is a healthy sort of fear, so there is cause to approach rearing children and homeschooling with a fear that denotes respect for the undertaking.

    After all, this is a big deal. Education is first and foremost a spiritual endeavor, which is why it should be taken seriously and religiously. As Mystie wrote:

    Housework can get caught up in a day or two with peppy music and three or four cups of coffee. Children — not so much.

    Good reason to keep my priorities in order.

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    7 Comments

  • Reply Brandy May 3, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Kimbrah,
    Part of what you might be feeling is also the increase in your own responsibilities. For me, at least, as the children have become more numerous and also older, there is just more to get done, and so I have needed the greater structure. When, for almost three years, it was just E. and me, we got everything done with no official schedule or structure at all. 🙂

    And yes, improved health is such a blessing in getting the day underway. I am so, so happy for you guys!

    Mystie,
    I liked your review also. I have school under control, but the spring addition of a lot more outside work has caused me to lose my rythym inside. I really need to sit down and devise some structure for cleaning and food prep again…

  • Reply Mystie May 3, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Kimbrah,

    I’m glad the review was helpful! One testimonial story the author gave as a “success story” included the comment that not one day in 4 months has gone exactly as scheduled, but following it as she can has kept things much better than they were before. I have found the same to be true, though it’s only been a couple weeks for me.

  • Reply Kimbrah May 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Brandy-

    This is a great post. I think I have been realizing the need for a bit more structure to our days lately. I still want to have more of a free-style approach to learning with much flexibility for spontaneity but I am also seeing that our days do need to have more direction than I have been giving it lately. This should be much easier now that I am feeling much healthier and my child who caused such chaos in our household on a daily basis is finally feeling healthier himself.

    That being said, I just have to figure out what that is going to look like for us. I love love LOVED Mystie’s review of “Managers of Their Homes” I hope to be able to get a copy in the near future.

  • Reply Brandy May 1, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Small world… 🙂

  • Reply Mystie April 29, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Femina is wonderful! 🙂 Doug Wilson’s Future Men is also excellent in that regard. I *love* their family series.

    Big Fish Small Pond is pretty common to homeschooling. 🙂 I hope you post the ideas you come up with, so I can steal them in a year! 🙂

  • Reply Brandy April 28, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Mystie,

    Looseness becomes anarchy in my life, too! I have met some mommies who are so GOOD at being unstructured, and everything becomes a learning adventure. I SO admire this, but I am NOT like this. My tendency is to become….completely inert! 🙂

    By the way, I liked your mention of not paving an easy way. (Been reading Femina?) I have actually been brainstorming on how to make life a bit more challenging for my oldest. I think he might have Big Fish Small Pond Syndrome…

  • Reply Mystie April 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Great post, Brandy!

    I especially liked your point at the end about having appropriate fear. It is the taking life and education too casually (especially evident in the Northwest) that I fear. The men in the highest-paying and most respected jobs (engineers) in our town wear jeans and casual shirts to work. Yet, also, I fear being pretentious in the land of the casual.

    I have a vision and goal set written out, but it is pending approval from the headmaster. 🙂 Your verse is perfect for a school theme verse.

    I just don’t know where the balance is between stilted, false structures and loosey-goosey meandering. However, I have come to terms that looseness becomes anarchy in my life, and I need to work on being disciplined.

    If it is any comfort, I think that most of the benefits of a large family are felt by the oldest. The benefits of having siblings and real responsibilities will far outweigh any lack of structure or attention in the first few years. Now, lack of structure all the way through….well, that was me. And so that was the gap I’m making up for now. There will be gaps of one sort or another, things for individuals to work on throughout adulthood. We can’t pave a perfect way, and we shouldn’t try to pave an easy way. So, do what you have been convinced of, pay attention, and trust God with the rest.

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