We have some friends who leased an old country farmhouse. Surrounded by wheat fields, it was a quaint white house that had been built a quarter-mile off the road. The driveway from the road to the house was bounded by a long white fence. The driveway had never been paved or even graveled; it was really only a path, barely wide enough to accommodate a single car.
One particularly wet spring the mud on their driveway was so deep that our friends had to park their car by the road and walk in the grass along the fence the distance to their house. Summer finally brought drier weather, and the path to their house became hard and firm again. The deep ruts made in the mud were also rigid and hardened.
When we were planning to visit her, my friend’s instructions to us were, “The path to the house is dry, but be careful not to allow your wheels to slip into the ruts; you won’t be able to steer your car and will end up stuck, dragging the bottom of your car over the mound in the middle of the path.” She wasn’t exaggerating. It required careful attention and strength to keep the wheels from following the ruts cut deep into the path. Now whenever I think about being in a rut, I visualize myself struggling to control the steering wheel, trying to guide my car up the path to my friend’s house.
What are the ruts you easily slide into concerning the education of your children? Are there grooves or tracks which have been laid by our culture, or even by your own experience, that have become deep ruts, which force you to go in a different direction and stop you from reaching your goals and desires for your children? How can you remain intentional about the education of your children?
A realistic, objective analysis of how you are doing education will help you avoid ruts that slow you down and sabotage learning for your children. The following questions are designed to help you remain intentional about the direction of your homeschooling. It is wise to periodically reconsider and reevaluate why you do what you do during school time.
- Does your routine encourage vitality or has it become lifeless and boring to the children? Are you just going through the motions of school time in order to get things done?
Routines are healthy for children. Within those routines, however, seek to keep meaning and interest, purpose and wonder alive during lesson times. Plan something unexpected. Even a small surprise, planned with intent and purpose, can transform a mundane day. Ask yourself, “Is there a sense of awe today?”
- Do you require your child to spend the majority of school time sitting at a desk? Sitting for long periods is especially detrimental for young children, though moving around and actively learning is necessary for everyone.
Ask yourself, “Am I arranging time for changes in brain function and for brain breaks?”
- Are your children studying to finish the book or assignment in lieu of reading and studying to learn?
There is a difference. Finishing assignments is a good thing, but not if learning and understanding are not the goals. Ask yourself, “Does my child understand?” If you discern that he does not fully understand, slow down or back up to the point where he shows mastery. Then creatively continue from that place with understanding as your goal.
- Are you constantly pushing to keep a child from falling behind?
Help your child thrive by finding the balance of challenge and appropriate support for him. Ask yourself, “Is my child confident of my support and motivated when I challenge him?” Keep support and challenge on the forefront of your mind as you assess what your child has accomplished and plan for his continued studies. Don’t box him in, and be willing to explore new approaches to learning.
- Is school time centered only on academics? Or on the other hand, are academics consistently put aside because of character issues?
Neither extreme is healthy. Ask yourself, “Am I educating the whole person?”Consider:
body – developing habits to promote health and physical fitness
soul – building habits of mind (intellect), will (ability to choose well), and emotions
spirit – pointing your child to the love of God and relationship with Him through Christ.
Let these evaluation questions be your guide as you direct your child to success in learning and in growth. Then take action to avoid the ruts!