Friday, August 7, 2009

Discipleship Through Homeschooling

The "discipleship" methodology of homeschooling involves parents directing their children's lives (and therefor, training) by welcoming their observation and help in whatever tasks they themselves are involved in. Rather than "assigning" MEANINGLESS learning activities, the family works together on MEANINGFUL tasks that are productive for their family life. In the process, the children's hearts are knit to the parents, and they acquire the skills and knowledge that are being used.

As parents welcome their children's intimate involvement in their work, study, recreation, etc., the children learn to become more LIKE their parents. This is discipleship. The focus isn't primarily on contrived experiences that provide learning opportunities, but more on moment-by-moment faithfulness in the tasks we are called to. Learning is the unsought result, rather than being the goal. When what is sought is the "kingdom of God" the by-product is "all these other things" (Matt. 6:33).

Interestingly, research bears out the effectiveness of this approach. For example, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the best predictor of excellent reading skills is how much a person is read to during childhood. If you want good readers, read to your children. We work together, play together, read together, sing together, eat together, pray together... The key to discipleship is being (and doing) together.

Yes, I could get a lot more done without having my children distracting me. But if I want them to learn to be like me, I welcome them into my life. My call is to constantly call their hearts and their eyes (their attention). "My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways" (Prov. 23:26). This is the curriculum we see mandated in Deuteronomy 6:6-9: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

We are all already experienced at this methodology of instruction. I've never yet met anyone who used "curriculum" to teach their children to talk, or to walk. How did we teach these skills? We simply lived them before our babies, and as they observed us and tried to mimic us, in time they learned the skills quite well. We teach reading, writing, math, History, Geography, Science, Health, Physical Education, etc. the same way (although we don't think in such segmented terms--it's all life together before the Lord).

Raise and answer questions in conversation together. Teach Reading by reading aloud together (then stopping at exciting places where the children will try to read further on their own). Teach Writing through meaningful pre-writing and correspondence experiences. Teach math by handling money (a small family business?), construction, sewing, and cooking projects together. Teach History and Geography by reading adventurous missionary biographies together. Teach Science by having a garden, raising animals, and exploring & discussing God's creation together. Teach Health by discussing and modeling good hygiene. Teach Physical Education by hiking, biking, and playing together. A child with that much "together" interaction ("following") with his parents is going to be well educated.

-Jonathan Lindvall

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