Homeschooling Manifesto, Take 1

Recently I was reading through a loaned copy of Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy and it was all I could do not to break out the highlighters and marginalia as I read:

“It is especially strange that we burden children with this question of what they will one day do when so much of our lives is already prescribed. What will my children do? I can already see most of it. They will sleep. They will eat. They will live in relationship with others. They will celebrate special days and live ordinary days that tick with repetitive tasks. The truly important question seems not to be what they will do but how they will do it.

There — in a book not about homeschooling, in a beautiful book by a mother who doesn’t homeschool — is why I want to homeschool.

When Pippin was a toddler, people would ask him what he wanted to be, and he’d answer clearly and stoutly: Truck driver. And people would try to argue him out of it! No, they’d say. You can be an engineer and design trucks.

It made me mad. He can be a conscientious truck driver who scans the highways for interesting wildlife and listens to audiobooks and eats too many French fries and makes an honest wage to support his family.

(And anyway, now he wants to be a policeman.)

Don’t get me wrong. I get uncomfortable talking to homeschooling mothers who don’t feel called to prepare their children for college. I hope that will be our goal for all or most of our kids, to the extent that it’s up to me as a mom, and to the extend that we end up sticking with this homeschooling thing.

But I guess I’m just beginning to see life and the preparation for it as much wider and richer than simple academic success. With the exception of geometry, which was for me, like Anne Shirley, my Waterloo, I was pretty good at the academic game. And the time and energy I spent in school continues to bless me in how I see and interact with the world, don’t get me wrong. But I want my children to see themselves as more than their academic performance. I want them to spend more time with each other, with me, learning to love their family well and to fix a hot lunch, too. I want algebra and laundry skills for them, Latin drills and digging holes in the lawn.

Purifoy addresses this whole-life view for her children in her next paragraph:

“Will they bless the food they eat and so receive it within the context of a relationship with God? Will they pursue truth and justice and beauty as things belonging, not to a dark world, but to the light that has come into the world? Will they keep and care for their environments, homes, offices, and neighborhood parks? For their urban centers and national forests and for those who live in them? In these ways and in every moment of their days, will they proclaim the gospel, the good news of Christ’s reign and redemption?”

A lot of things go in to trying to give our children this perspective. Letting your five-year-old mop, and making him put away his LEGOs. Reading stories of bravery and pluck to your three-year-old daughter, not just the Disney fluff she begs for. Putting your baby in the company of her older siblings all day, every day instead of splitting the siblings up between elementary school, preschool and home, for the benefit and aggravation of all.

Sarah Mackenzie, who does homeschool, writes compelling,

“Raising our children isn’t just about getting them ready for adulthood. It isn’t just about preparation for a career. It’s about transforming and shaping their hearts and minds. It’s about nourishing their souls, building relationships, and forging connections. It’s about nurturing within them care and compassion for whomever they encounter.” [via]

I think it stands to reason that you’ve got a better opportunity to help shape hearts and minds and connections when you’re putting in what Nora Ephron called “quantity time” with your child home with you. I may not always have my children home with me all day — we are taking homeschooling year by year, child by child — but I like that idea, that I’m not shaping what my children will do, but how they will do it.

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5 thoughts on “Homeschooling Manifesto, Take 1

  1. I love this.

    Related to your little one’s truck driver ambitions, last summer my boys were enthusiastically watching some guys take down a few big trees near our house, and of course that’s what they ALL wanted to do when they grew up. But those very guys were telling them, “No, no, go to school, don’t be like me.” I found it really depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a bummer! I’m sure they thought they were helping encourage your boys but how discouraging for a little kid!!

      (I talked to a woman once who had a five year old boy and a newborn. She said she’d drive her van to a construction site, lock all the doors, nurse and nap while the five year old watched the big machines, rapt.)

      Like

  2. People are so weird about this! My daughter has quite a few friends with coached answers to this question. I want to be an engineer! A lawyer! Smiles from the parents all around. (Six year olds.)

    Also on the silly after school activity front, there is a lot of pressure to find that one thing that little Sally is amazing at. Well…most people don’t have an incredible talent! Can we please all calm down.

    Liked by 2 people

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