I’ve been homeschooling for 15 years (as of 2016 when this was written). Well, 15 if you think of homeschooling in the way that I do. 15 years if you consider day 1 of your child’s life as the beginning of his or her homeschooling. But over the past 15 years I have watched the homeschooling community move away from this type of thinking and morph into something that looks remarkably familiar. Something that looks quite similar to the system homeschoolers originally left. And I have seen an increasing number of articles on “homeschool burnout” and heard more stories of women putting their children back into public schooling because they simply don’t know how to make homeschooling work with their lifestyle.
One of the things that I have noticed about parents who resort to turning back to traditional schooling is a strange idea that their particular situation is somehow different. I don’t mean that to sound judgmental or uncompassionate, but rather to point out the simple fact that in all likelihood, they are not alone. In all likelihood, there have been many successful homeschoolers who had far more difficult circumstances and whose situations seemed virtually incompatible with the perceived demands and rigors of homeschooling.
I can think of one such situation myself: a homeschooling mom whose husband divorced her and left her with three young sons to raise on a small budget and while working. And she did it. Very successfully, I might add! Or, there is also my dear friend, Barbara McCoskey, who spoke at our 2016 Lifeschooling Conference. During her first year of homeschooling, God allowed her to become very ill with breast cancer. But she carried on with homeschooling. Successfully!
So, what factors lead some parents to quit and some to carry on? And more than that, what factors lead even some of the strongest homeschool “evangelists” to suffer major burnout while some, on the other hand, savor their entire homeschooling experience? I believe one of the major factors is an underlying faulty philosophy of education. Years ago, the pioneer homeschoolers blazed a trail when they began homeschooling and while many of them initially attempted to mimic the only thing they knew — teaching various grade levels from multiple subjects from textbooks and workbooks — they quickly ended up discovering that not only was this going to be impossible due to textbook companies refusing to sell to them, but that God had “led them out of Egypt” to be a separate people. They realized that their lack of resources was a blessing in disguise because public education, at its very foundation, was flawed and using those same methods and principles was not going to work.
What many don’t understand is that the entire traditional school model was based on evolutionary principles and established as a means of providing good workers for the new Industrial Age…people who would know how to stand in lines, obey orders, and not question authority. And so these pioneers began following a philosophy that some are now referring to as “lifeschooling.”
At the Lifeschooling Conference, we will be discussing a philosophy of homeschooling called “Lifeschooling” and helping you to create a homeschooling model that works with your family life, not against it.
So, what is Lifeschooling, anyway? Many might say it sounds like just another name for unschooling. But, while there are many similar elements, there are some important distinctions that make lifeschooling different. You can read about them in the article “Lifeschooling is not Unschooling.” As for Lifeschooling, here is the description we have on our mission page, with a little more “fleshing out” to help you fully understand.
Lifeschooling is the process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents. . .
If we really believe each child is unique, with a unique purpose given by God, then why do we treat them all the same with regard to education? School is a factory model that runs most efficiently when all children are treated the same and one body of knowledge is prescribed for all. It completely ignores the fact that children are, surprise, not the same. They are, in fact, unique and each has a specific purpose, given to him/her by God. They do not learn at the same rate and because they do have a specific purpose from God, it stands to reason that they do not all need the same body of knowledge. The factory model of education simply does not accommodate this reality and because of that, it will not work. Therefore, it is our job as parents to figure out what each child’s purpose is and to individually tailor that child’s education and help guide him/her in becoming an expert at whatever God has put within him/her to do.
through real life experiences. . .
Why real life experiences? Isn’t it enough just to teach from a textbook? Well, no. It isn’t. For one thing, most textbooks are a product of the faulty educational model we just discussed. Most of them take a body of knowledge that every third grader, for example, is “supposed to know” and then they break it down into smaller increments. But beyond the philosophical issues…think of all the most important lessons in your life. Weren’t they learned from real world experiences? Why is this? Because when we see things in context, it suddenly has meaning. When we realize that we need to understand how to multiply fractions in order to double a recipe, then we suddenly have a desire to know that bit of information. And we get to eat more cake as a result of that knowledge! 🙂 Without context, knowledge becomes dry, boring, and seemingly irrelevant (and without abundant bundt cake).
That being said, there are times for carefully chosen textbooks. They are not necessarily to be banished and I would be a liar if I said I didn’t ever use some form of curriculum myself. (Remember, lifeschooling is about freedom)! But I believe we often use curriculum as a crutch and it becomes the basis of why we do things. Curriculum often rules the homeschool, whereas I believe we should always be sensitive to God’s direction and how He orders our daily lives. We should prioritize relationships daily and keep the end goals always in mind rather than letting curriculum become our task-master and schedule-setter. And real life learning, whether scheduled or randomly occurring, gives a context that will always provide a richness that a textbook simply cannot. For all other times, “living” books are also a wonderful way to educate. If you can’t provide the actual experience (such as climbing Mount Everest), then reading the account of a man who did, or reading a well-written fictional story, is the next best option for making the education as real as possible.
that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations. . .
Why is it that we plan our days out as though they are going to just run smoothly with no interruptions to the schedule? This is not reality…at least, it’s not mine! And I believe the Bible has something to say about presuming what we will do tomorrow, doesn’t it (James 4:13-15)? And don’t we believe that those everyday things that come up…the random neighbor visits, the sick family members, the “emergency” grocery trips…are sovereignly orchestrated by God? And what about the even larger, more life-changing circumstances, such as chronic illness or death of a family member? And if they are all sovereignly ordained, don’t we believe that they have some valuable lessons to teach us and our children? This is everyday life and life is not a reason to abandon homeschooling. Life is a huge part of homeschooling!
What about you and your spouse? Weren’t the two of you called to something, as well? Is that to be sacrificed and set aside for the sake of your children? Absolutely not. Your children are not the focus. Your entire family is. And everyone’s needs must be balanced. God placed your children in your family so that they could learn from you, their parents, to see how you effectively use your gifts, given to you by God! And since they have a good bit of your DNA, I suspect they might actually find some of the same giftings in themselves just by observing you!
Your “gift” is your life’s mission…whether it looks “spiritual” or not. And of course, there should also be some missions in the stricter sense of the word, as well, whether it is a missions trip, ministry to the homeless, pro-life ministry, etc. Your children need to see and be involved with you actively working out your faith. If your faith isn’t real to you, why should it be real to them?
Lifeschooling is the freedom to educate as God calls you to, not as the Scope and Sequence, state regulation, or curriculum dictates.
This one is pretty straight-forward and we’ve touched on it already. Will you be a slave to man’s idea of a “good education” or will you be subject to what God calls you to do? Will you continue to look to man to give you guidance, or will you seek to know what God thinks of your plans? Isn’t it strange that we have this idea that “experts” know how our own flesh and blood will learn best? I also find it incongruous that we talk about children as being unique individuals, while at the same time trying to force them to fit into the mold that the state or a curriculum company has created. Here’s a revelation: The Scope and Sequence was not handed down on stone tablets and all children do not learn at the same pace! Nor should they even all learn the exact same material, as we’ve already discussed.
So, what should they learn from year to year? It’s not complicated. We should simply ask God and then expect Him to answer. How many homeschoolers start planning their homeschool year by asking the Lord to show them what they need to do? If most people are like I was for many years, their homeschool plans start with coveting in the vendor halls of a conference and figuring out how to fit in as much cool curricula as possible! And let me tell you, there is some pretty slick looking curricula out there, much of it sitting on my shelf, collecting dust in the hopes of being used someday! 😉 But what if we stopped first and asked God to clearly show us what each child needs to accomplish His purpose for his/her life? What if we even fasted and prayed about our school years? Wouldn’t we see God do great things?
The mission of the Lifeschooling Conference and Activities Fair is to encourage moms and dads that homeschooling can merge with a healthy family life and whatever life circumstances God brings, and to challenge the conventional, historically abnormal model of age-segregated, subject-divided, desk-confined schooling that has infiltrated the modern homeschooling movement.
And there you have it. Not much “fleshing out” to do here. I believe we are at a crossroads in the homeschooling movement. Now is a crucial time when we will see homeschooling as a whole either continue to move down the path toward simply mimicking the traditional school model, only in a different location, or we will see a revolution. We will see parents returning to the roots and doing things the way our homeschooling forefathers did. And we will see families flourish and thrive as a result.
In short, the Lifeschooling Conference is a call to a revolution! It is a call to homeschoolers to quit craving the “leeks and garlic” of Egypt and to feast on the manna that God has already provided! We are sojourners in a strange land of homeschooling. Why do we want to return to what the system has to offer? If it was good enough, then why did we flee? We hope you will be a part of this movement to bring homeschooling back to its roots. Back to where it all originated. We hope you will discover what the pioneer homeschoolers discovered years ago. It will set you free!