Seize the Moment
The thrill is gone. The new has worn off the new school year. For some of us, the new way of educating has lost its luster. It’s not only the time of year, but it may also be the way we are teaching our children that is tarnishing the excitement of learning.
I was a classroom teacher before I began to teach my children. It wasn’t a gradual change over the summer. My children and I left our classrooms on Friday and stepped into using a desk in the kitchen on Monday. All was great until the new wore off.
I had been taught there was only one way to teach—lesson plans, desks, recesses. Yes, I did designate recess time in our school at home. This model didn’t work for anyone in our family.
I was so bogged down in lesson plans and schedules. When real life happened, it got in the way of school. When someone called, I didn’t have time to talk. When someone came to visit, I was unnerved. I was more interested in “school” than my children learning. When completing a certain number of pages or checking items off the list became the goal, I knew something had to change. I slowly began to see we were learning as much, if not more, from what we were doing every day as from the well-planned lessons. The change began. From schooling at home, we began to learn at home. We began a learning way of life.
When learning became the focus, we grasped the opportunity as it presented itself. We are no longer overly concerned whether pages 38 and 39 in the textbook are completed. Instead of life being an interruption, it becomes the curriculum.
This method of education doesn’t come easily. I struggled to remove classroom management from our life when I began teaching at home. As I gradually began to see even the going to the grocery store was a lesson, textbooks, schedules, and even recess became secondary. Life became our course of study.
How does your life become your curriculum? Let me give some examples from my family.
I once owned a minivan, a homeschool bus, that was a rolling automotive class. Each trip was an adventure with some new car repair lesson for my boys. The one lesson remembered the most was a trip to Long Beach, which included my son having quality time on the phone with his dad while learning how to check and repair the water pump.
On that same trip, all of us learned a lesson on charity. A homeless man helped us and then left without giving us an opportunity to even say thank you. We have talked about this experience for years. No automotive text would include that lesson.
My mother had cancer. The last two years of her life were our curriculum. We learned not just about cancer but also about her medications, treatments, and types of doctors. Lessons from hospice, the hospitals, and even the funeral home were there for me to use. Our death education classes included much discussion of life after death.
The greatest lesson, though, came a couple of weeks before Mom died. One of our sons was staying with his grandparents full time to help in the care. One day, he commented he was learning what love really meant by watching his grandpa take care of his grammy. Could you have written that lesson plan?
What is it you want your children to leave home with? Of course, you want them to remember the dates of the Civil War, how to construct a complete sentence, or figure percentage. These can be taught through field trips, writing letters and stories, and calculating the tip at a restaurant. My goal became having my children leave home knowing how to learn and enjoying it.
Ponder what you are doing. Are you having school at home? What is the more important lesson—the one in the book or the one at the front door? Has teaching children become a burden of number of pages, test scores, or checking off the list? Maybe it’s time to prayerfully consider whether you are just schooling your children or if you are educating them in and for life.
(For more ideas about a lifestyle of learning, read “Planning a Learning Way of Life.” www.susankstewart.com/planning-a-learning-way-of-life/.)
Susan K. Stewart, Nonfiction Managing Editor with Elk Lake Publishing, teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost?, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook, and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Her latest book, Donkey Devos: Listening to you donkey when God speaks, is scheduled to be released spring 2021. You can learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.