Saturday, January 7, 2012

Relationships Before Academics

I have previously referenced in my blog posts that the way we view (as well as the way we DO) homeschool has gone through some drastic changes over the past year or so. This is due largely to the change in homeschool requirements when we moved from Indiana to Washington. Washington law states that in order to be qualified to homeschool, the parent must either have a college degree, be overseen by a certified teacher, or posses proof they have completed a homeschool qualifying course.

Coming from a very loosely regulated state (and not yet having a college education) prompted me to find out what options were available to me to complete the required course. Most of what I found required attendance at several seminars and quite a sum of money. Then I found Barb Shelton's correspondence course, which was a perfect fit for me. I signed up, paid my enrollment fee, and purchased the required reading materials. This all started a couple of months before we moved, as it was my goal to be prepared legally once we arrived.

Of the many wonderful materials I studied, the writings of Marilyn Howshall are what stuck with me the most. Marilyn's writings are not based on a method, rather on a lifestyle that is at it's very root centered around the Bible. Although I was only required to read a few of her books, I ended up purchasing and devouring everything I could find written by her. When even that wasn't enough, I ended up finding a Yahoo group, as well as a Facebook group called Home Educated Mom. It was here that I got to know the heart of what makes a Lifestyle of Learning unique from every other method or approach I had ever encountered. This post will be my  first in a series discussing her writings, and the impact they have made on my life.

In her book The Two-Pronged Educational Myth, Marilyn talks about the way our society views education versus the biblical meaning of education. The world says that if we fill our children with subjects, topics, and information then they will be prepared for life. However, the Bible tells us that relationships are where we should begin. The heart-level attitudes, intentions, and motivations (what Marilyn refers to as AIM in many of her writings) of our children will show through in the fruit of their relationships. And where do our children learn to relate to others? From the relationships within the family! Marilyn says:
"A biblical model of education and discipleship combines principles of learning for a whole-life education. Children are instructed in right-relating practices within the family and with their own learning process."
Here's an eye opening thought - God actually cares deeply about the discipleship and education of our children! He doesn't just want our kids to get any old education, He wants them to have the BEST possible education - one that is biblical! Which means that discipleship and education (not meaning only academics) are equally important in shaping our children's lives.

Ok, you may be thinking, so what does that LOOK like? What makes this different than what I have already been doing? A biblical Lifestyle of Learning means that learning happens in the middle of everyday life. Our children will learn using specific tools (which I will discuss further in a future post) and specific principles will influence all activities and relationships. Our children will work toward developing individual scholarship. Take note: individual here means so much more than independent, the two words do not mean the same thing at all. One aspect of a Lifestyle of Learning I truly love is the use of living books and notebooking. We have used both of these wonderful learning tools in our home for years and enjoy them so much more than workbooks and textbooks, although these have their place as well. Individual discipleship between a parent, who's aim is to be led by the Spirit, and their child will result in relational fruit (as well as all-around happier household, in my own experience). The parents must be committed to following the leading of the Holy Spirit in all matters (educationally AND relationally) and show constant interest in those things their children are interested in. A true LOL (abbreviated from here on) means taking the time to observe, talk to, and encourage our children to help them develop their interests, as well as their gifts, bents, traits, and abilities. And last but not least, a LOL means putting relationships first, resulting in family purpose and meaningful relationships between all family members.

Ok, so what about content? Skills? Academics? I won't dig too deeply into these issues until later posts in this series, but instead I will leave you with this quote from the author:
"When the acquisition of knowledge serves character formation, skill will always be found to be a by-product of the process."
 A LOL requires much more of the parent, but not in the same ways many traditional methods and curriculum do. There are three major areas in which the parent must first begin to change before they can make changes within the family.

  1. Devote time and energy to personal scholarship, as led by the Holy Spirit, in order to experience true growth and change,
  2. Allow the Holy Spirit to to disciple you (through your conscience) in order to address your relationships biblically,
  3. Embrace the process of bringing your children into right relating practices with you as the Lord leads you to do in your own relationships.
Although it's been nearly a year since these truths were opened up to me, this is still the point I am at in my own transformational change. I have made other small changes here and there, but my focus will remain in the area of relating with my own children until the Holy Spirit has told me to move forward from here. There are so many things wrong in this area, not just in my children, but in my own heart as well, and He is showing me more with each passing day. I am so thankful I have began this journey with the Lord and with my family and I know we will forever be changed. I am already seeing fruit, slowly but surely and I am beyond thankful I am no longer blind to these sinful behaviors. At first, my heart was very heavy seeing all that needed to be changed within my own heart, but as the Spirit is showing me the things that need to change, He is ever faithful to lead me through making those changes. It's a very slow, and sometimes painful, process, but the rewards are great. 

Next in this series, I will share with you a little more about the educational side of LOL. Until then, if you like what you have read, please visit Lifestyle of Learning Ministries here, where all of Marilyn's materials are available for purchase as ebooks. Also, make sure to check out LOLACHE (Lifestyle of Learning Association of Home Educators) online membership site and watch the videos there. 


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