Dirty Hands, Strong Character

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

— Mark Twain

Every year I lay out a scope and sequence for the school year. Then life happens. You know what I mean. Priorities in the home sometimes come before school work. Already this year we’ve missed plenty of hours at the dining room table because we were running errands, closing down the garden, fixing lights on the pickup, rescuing goats from the hay loft, going to doctor’s appointments, and on and on and on.

Sometimes I feel like “school” should have a greater priority, but that’s just not how this homeschooling thing works. Of course we want to teach them to read, write, compute, and discern, but sometimes that means on-the-job training. If we are preparing them for a life in the outside world, beyond ourselves, we have to teach them more than science and civics. They never stop learning and watching and absorbing, so everything is educational: life skills, emotional intelligence, time management. It all matters.

Just this week, one child said something cruel to another child. We spent the next hour or so with the offending child talking about kindness, character, anger, and patience. He needed that, and he needed it more than he needed to read about ancient Egyptians. As difficult as it is for me to stray from the Holy Plan of the school year, character comes first. What value is there in educating monsters?

I know it’s stressful trying to ensure we teach them everything they need to know to be at someone else’s idea of grade level. But, speaking from experience as a homeschooled child, it is more important to teach them how to learn. We can’t cram it all into 13 years. That’s not our job.

We need to clear the building site of the debris of laziness, procrastination, insecurity, and distraction. We then dig the foundation of learning skills. We pour a slab of basic knowledge and frame four walls of reading, writing, logic, and reasoning. The rest depends wholly on the uniqueness of the child. Maybe math is the electrical system, or maybe that child would rather live off-grid. Maybe the plumbing is science, but that child would rather wash in the river and use an outhouse. But, unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Learning is a life-long process for your child and for you. The homeschooling process for your family will be ever-changing, but hopefully, constantly refining. Perfection is not an option in the lesson plans. Remember that there are people you don’t even know raising prayers on your behalf, and never forget that God gave those children to you and you to them, and He doesn’t make mistakes.