Sep 14, 2015

Guide Me

When God created His plan for His children, He knew that we would need guides to teach us all the things we would need to know. Over the span of generations upon generations, babies are sent to homes with mothers and fathers who have experience and wisdom.

All parents have a sacred duty to give their innocent children boundaries and rules. While children should have a span of freedom to learn and explore, the mature parents are the guardians of the limits and the keepers of the gates.

Good Shepherds

"the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." ~John 10:11-13

True shepherds do not drive the sheep by force or fear. Yet, the shepherds, because of their life experience, do know the very best pastures for grazing, and the sources of clean water. And so they carefully guide the sheep to the places where they will be nourished and filled with the best grasses, and refreshed by the purest water.

Once the flock is filled with the nutrients they need, they are free to frolic and play in the pastures, all the while, under the protection and watchful eye of the shepherd who truly loves them. As the sun dips below the hillside, the sheep are gathered in and surrounded by walls of protection.

Homeschooling parents are like the shepherds from days of old. They love their little lambs, providing nourishment and protecting them from the wolves or thieves that can prey upon them. They are not motivated to teach their children because of payment; rather, they have a natural interest and concern for the quality of education their children. They also wish to protect their children from the enemies who hope to deceive them with lessons that fill them with educational and spiritual "junk food."

Educational Feasting

“We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programs and each small guest assimilates what he can.” ~Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education
I grew up in a home where my parents both had a great appreciation for history. My mother also had a love for beautiful artwork, literature, music, and poetry. I read "classics" from a very young age because of the suggestions my mother made, and the example she set of reading, herself.

When I reached first grade, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons, which I continued taking until I was seventeen. She had also encouraged my love of singing and performing throughout my childhood and teen years, and I could count on her to attend every recital, concert, and production I participated in.

We did not have a lot of money, but she sacrificed and did all she could to barter and help out in order for me to excel at my interests. When I wanted to quit, she was there to encourage and challenge me to keep going.

Our home was filled with lovely music, our walls were graced with the works of masters, and our bookshelves were bursting at the seams with the greatest literature that the world had to offer. (Even if they were just paperbacks that Mom purchased with spare change at yard sales.)

I was enriched and filled with the beautiful and virtuous. Of course, I occasionally dabbled in the things of life that were not as nourishing-- and some things that were even a bit poisonous. But I would be drawn back to the siren song of the bountiful educational feast my mother was constantly spreading before us.

Purposeful Planning

“… a parent who does not follow a fully thought out plan of education will fail to fulfill the claims his children have upon him for growing to adulthood in full possession of his abilities.” ~Charlotte Mason, Home Education

I have been called by God to shepherd my little (okay, my large) flock through many dangers, bypassing tempting fields off the path, and gathering them into verdant pastures where they will be guarded, nurtured and fed. There are times when lambs seek to explore and experiment. Loving shepherds do not let their young and inexperienced little ones wander aimlessly without guidance.

Wise parents take the time to research, ponder, pray, and then create an educational plan for each child in their care. Then, with those plans in mind, they gather wholesome resources, books, classes, and experiences for their students.

Next, they guide their children to develop study skills through each subject, asking questions, discussing ideas, following up with assignments, holding them accountable to commitments, and challenging them to attain new levels of excellence.

Of course, there is a time and place for each thing on the list above, and we will cover those in the coming weeks. But NOW is the time for us to pray, to ponder, and to learn all we can about what our little lambs need in order to face the world outside our little pastures. This is not a step that can be done in one day, but in creating a plan of action, we will make the journey easier, and more pleasant, too.

Coming up...

Thank you for reading all of my philosophies and thoughts about these changes I have made in my homeschool. I am almost done sharing my reasoning behind the name of this new blog. Next time, I will cover the last element: "Walk Beside."

Until next time...

Love, Rachel

Sep 3, 2015

Lead Me

"You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.
And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house." ~Doctrine and Covenants 93:42-43

      Anyone who knows me knows that I am what the world calls a "strict" mom. My kids do chores, have rules to follow, and are not spoiled nor given everything they want. We have a very large family, and we have many children to care for, so we do our best to supply them with their needs and many of their wants, but we literally cannot meet all of their requests.

      We also don't feel that it is good for children to have everything they want when they want it. We want them to learn patience, self-denial, and discipline. We assign our younger ones to the care of our older ones, because we want them to learn to serve unselfishly, and to sacrifice.

      The way I have tried to manage our home and family has been orderly and intentional. I have done all I can to make our home environment rich in art, music, spirituality, and culture. I have always wanted my children to learn how to be truly good, live with integrity, and love God.

      But there is one area that I have neglected, and made the mistake of expecting things to grow organically, without effort from me.

      I have neglected my children academically.

Parental Stewardship

      I have been homeschooling a long time-- a long time! Since 1999, I have had my children home with me for the purpose of being educated under my care. I have often explained one of my reasons for homeschooling as feeling that the education of my children is my God-given responsibility and stewardship.

      So how could I have neglected the education of my children in this way???

      To make a very long story short, I came to believe that my children did not need my instruction-- that they would learn all they needed to learn on their own. I felt that if I set the example of working on my own projects, that they would follow suit and work on their own.

      In many ways, things did work well. If I practiced the piano, my children would clamor to play the piano. If I spent hours a day reading, my children would spend hours reading.

     But there was one element that did not work out in a positive way. My projects tended to be on the computer. I was doing big things! I was connecting homeschoolers, building a community and network of homeschooling families, planning and running events. It was fun and exciting! I was busy and happy. My kids were smart, they were reading, having fun, learning various subjects, and discussing. But they were not receiving instruction and guidance-- academically-- from me.

      The one thing I was not doing, was homeschooling.


      For those who do not homeschool, who might read my blog, you need to understand that there is a movement in the homeschool world that has gained a lot of traction. It's called "Unschooling." 

      I want to make it crystal clear that I am NOT here to discredit unschooling, or say that no parent should use unschooling ideals in their homes. I could never, ever in good conscience tell a parent that what they are doing in their own God-given stewardship over their children's education is lacking. I believe in 100% homeschooling freedom, and I find compulsory schooling laws to be unjust and draconian.

      I can, however, with conviction, say that unschooling did not serve my own family well. 

      I wish to cover my reasons over the course of time here on my blog, so I will elucidate on my personal experiences unschooling in the future. More on that to come...

Steering the Boat

"I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;" ~1 Nephi 1:1

      My oldest children were by now in their teens. They were good kids, they were thinking about great things, and reading difficult books. However, they were so independent and strong-willed that they would not submit academically to anyone-- not to me, as their mother, nor to the mentors that taught them in their weekly classes with our homeschool group. They were the masters of their educations, only they were now prideful and unteachable.

      Frankly, they did not know all that they did not know! They had no course, and did not know how to navigate, even if they did have a plan. They simply floated along the waves of their present interests, and were going nowhere. Adulthood was waiting on the horizon, and they were clueless on how to meet it.

      At about this same time, I read a phrase written by a fellow homeschooler who had children slightly older than myself. What she wrote rang in my ears, and caused me to begin to change my own course.

      She wrote,

"We cannot leave our children to float adrift in their educational boats."

      Like a clash of thunder, I knew that I needed to step up and help my children steer their boats, before they drifted further and further off the course I knew that God and I wanted for them.

      So after more than a decade of "homeschooling," I found that I needed to start over. I needed to stop focusing on other homeschooling mothers and their children, and "behold my own little ones."

      The beam in my own eye had to be addressed, at last. It was a path of humiliation and regret, but at last I was going to face the fact that I had neglected the education of those precious ones I had been given stewardship over.

      Which is the course upon which I am still finding my way today.

      Thank you for joining me on the voyage.

With love, Rachel