We often associate learning with desks and worksheets and tests and school. We often think that it needs to happen in desks in a building for 8 hours a day in order to “count.” The idea of "preschool" is even pushed on younger and younger children in an effort to get them ready for this thing called “school."
But what if sometimes learning looks nothing like “school"? What if it happens in the everyday moments of life? What if it happens through reading beautiful literature, diving into deeper discussions, and just sharing life together? What if it’s just one of God’s gifts to humanity, ignited by curiosity and fueled by connection and relationship?
As a former public school educator and consultant turned homeschool mom, my ideas of education have truly evolved. I've seen how natural it is for children to learn and how much joy they find in the process. It's a gift that we, as adults, even experience when we've come across a new idea that sparks excitement and growth.
It's a gift we sometimes forget when we seek to standardize our children and box them into a certain set of grade-level standards. It’s a gift we throw away when we are so focused on results that we forget to enjoy the journey.
Learning happens everywhere.
Our children are constantly learning. It has been said that a child will learn more in the first 5 years of life than at any other time in his/her life. During those early years of development, a child will learn everything from dressing and caring for him or herself to developing an extensive vocabulary through language acquisition. They will learn the beginning skills of observation and exploration. They will learn to pay attention to details, to notice the clouds and worms and frogs and butterflies. They will learn social cues and how to respond to stressful situations. And they will learn how to love . . . or not love.
I truly believe that all of this can be learned best in the context of home, in the everyday moments that offer innumerable opportunities for growth and learning. There is no need for an artificial learning environment. In the home, learning is everywhere, and it is most meaningful when they are ready for it, ready to learn to read, ready to understand the concept of numbers and mathematical principles, and so much more. Every interaction and experience is valuable when you are intentional with this precious gift of time.
As your child continues to grow and develop, the learning only continues and deepens. As you teach them the importance of daily rhythms and routines, organization, consistency, and self-control, you are creating the habits that will help them thrive as adults. As you teach them how to apply reading and writing and math to the real-world, you are teaching them how to live life, how to bring order to their days, and how to work diligently for the glory of God. Through it all, you are teaching them what it means to live faithfully and fruitfully. . . and it matters more than you will ever know.
The Schools . . .
The schools focus on what can be put in a textbook or workbook and tested on a test. And although some of those things are valuable, they will often leave out the most important things your child will ever need to learn, like faith in God, critical thinking, work ethic, morality, life skills, financial literacy, compassion, and the ability to learn independently. Don’t lose sight of what truly matters most.
Learning happens through reading and discussion.
When you read the Bible and beautiful literature, you do far more than call out words on a page. God’s Word is living, and it has the power to renew and transform us in ways beyond our understanding. Great literature also resonates with us, introducing our children to the application of morals and Biblical truths. When we sit and read to our children, we are opening the world to them, creating opportunities for critical discussions to take place. This special time of conversation allows us to share our worldview and why it is so important.
Reading together also creates connection and special memories. It builds trust and understanding. And it welcomes in a host of other learning opportunities, including studies about cultures, geography, vocabulary, history, science, and so much more.
The Schools . . .
The schools teach reading to test for literal comprehension. Skills like deeper analysis and synthesis are often left out because they cannot be standardized or tested. Students are often told what the text means, and meaningful discussions are either left out or directed by the teacher’s worldview.
In many classrooms, classical texts and beautiful literature have also been replaced by twisted storylines that are neither edifying or good. The children miss the very thing they need to nourish their souls and embrace a Biblical understanding of the world around them. Let us be intentional in this area and point our children to that which is true and good and noble.
Learning happens through play.
It has been said that play is the work of childhood. Play is how children make sense of their world. Have you ever watched what happens when you share a great story with your children? They often recreate it through props and imaginative play. It is amazing to watch, but it requires us to step back and allow the time for it all.
Through play, children learn how to interact socially and emotionally. They learn how to live out the values and concepts they are experiencing through reading and discussion and observation. Play is their training ground. It is a safe way for them to embrace new ideas and make them their own.
As your child grows, “play” will become reality. Through real-world experiences, your child will begin the work of applying his or her knowledge and understandings. Internships, group-based projects, and co-ops can help your child explore new frontiers in an exciting and meaningful context.
The Schools . . .
The schools, however, rarely have time for play or exploration. Academics are often pushed to the point that little time is left over for recess or self-directed research. After-school activities often fill more of a child’s day with further organized activity, followed by assigned homework and often screen time.
More and more children are spending less and less time playing and exploring, leading to a deterioration in social and emotional well-being. More and more teens are missing the opportunity to develop a love for learning. We must guard this precious time and value the development of the whole child.
Home offers so many opportunities to ignite a love for learning. And when you establish that love, along with a strong foundation in God's Word, reading, writing, and math, additional studies in history and science, logic and art, and so much more become the icing on the proverbial cake. They sweeten the journey, providing a feast of ideas to further explore and experience in this great big, beautiful world God has created!
Sometimes, learning looks nothing like school.
And that’s more than okay.
“Education is a life, an atmosphere, a discipline.” -Charlotte Mason