Now that I'm "retired" from homeschooling, I find myself looking back on those days and wishing that I could do it all again. Now that I have some hindsight! But only with hindsight (and perhaps for just a couple of hours). I also find myself wondering what we did right? All of the many ways it went wrong are so obvious. The guys ended up with a homemade transcript that was full of major holes. I never even finished teaching them a full two years of Latin! And that is my main love. They didn't do any science labs --at least not any officially planned labs. Yet our sons are loving and responsible citizens, with great relationships; and they are not being held back from any of the things they wish to pursue, including college and beyond. So what was it that we did right?
Funny thing is that those of us who really want our children to have a first class education often try to cram so much learning into those first twelve years--there are so many subjects that must be covered--that sometimes our students' minds close up like a steel trap. Especially when the mom is all stressed about it.
This is where it seems to me true Christian relationships with other homeschoolers are essential to making progress in restoring a vigorous, not a rigorous, education. We need friends who will help us keep our perspective, and not let the educational rat race get in the way of real learning! It takes some relaxed quiet time (in other words a different sort of lifestyle) to really assimilate new ideas well. The value of experiencing and appreciating literature and art is worthy of time; it is worthy of time spent discussing these things with friends.
As Aristotle wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics (Book 8),
...friends enhance our ability to think and act.Too often we let the educational ‘rat race’ draw us away from the sort of learning that truly develops the mind. We chase after measurable and certifiable educational activities that can be listed on a transcript--and we can’t even think of a reason not to do that. But as Christians we are called to live a life of love, to develop our minds for the glory of God. This takes thoughtful time and it requires relationships. For how do we learn to love truly and deeply unless we can communicate that way? A lively literary way of life includes deep and lasting relationships with others.
As Aristotle said in the start of the Nichemachean. Ethics, “the Good of man is the active exercise of his soul's faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue, or if there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them. Moreover, to be happy takes a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make spring.”
I find my heart heavy when I see the direction that homeschooling has taken. So many co-ops are formed in which the teachers and students do not have relationships with one another. The family's agenda of working towards a fully filled out transcript above all, doesn't leave time to build relationships with other teachers and students. When I ask my grown sons what they remember as the most valuable parts of their homeschooling, they refer to the reading aloud of certain good books and the discussing of ideas.
Passing on a love for people and a love for learning go together. Jesus summed this up in the two greatest commandments, which I can't resist having my students memorize in Latin:
...diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et in tota anima tua et in tota mente tua.....hoc est maximum et primum mandatum. diliges proximum tuum sicut te ipsum.~Matthew 22: 37- 39