Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of teaching your student everything he or she needs to know for life? I know it happens, because I often talk with parents who are feeling a bit desperate because their child is either not “getting it” or not interested in school. The parent usually worries that little Fred will be locked into a “Would you like fries with that?” lifestyle, and it will be all their fault for not sending him to a nice traditional school where he would have been fascinated by everything the brilliant teachers shared. Or not.
A serious reality check will probably help you recall your own fascination with the academic side of school, and your diligence at pursuing all the extra bits of information that your teachers seemed to find so important. A further dose of reality will probably remind you that your learning didn’t stop when you received your high school diploma. You probably went on to learn work/career skills, parenting, French, computer skills, and all sorts of things you didn’t imagine you’d ever need while you were in school.
With that in mind, I’d like to encourage you to relax and look at homeschooling a bit differently. Your job as a teaching parent is very limited. You’re simply laying a foundation for the learning that will happen throughout your student’s life.
For the 12-18 years that you’re influencing your child, it’s a relief to know you don’t need to teach them everything they’ll ever need. Learning goes on for a lifetime, (as long as students aren’t inoculated against it by the notion that graduation means they know it all and are finished learning). Rather than being stressed into trying to create school at home, you can choose to create a warm, nurturing learning environment that will help learning happen as you “sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Your primary job as a homeschool parent is first to disciple and civilize your child, then to start them on the road to cultural literacy (the culture of Western civilization, not current pop culture). In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, they’ll need Four Foundational Skills:
- How to find and organize reliable information
- How to think and communicate clearly (literary analysis is a wonderful way to teach this)
- How to discern worldview
- How to make thoughtful, reasoned decisions
These learning skills can best be absorbed by application (aka “doing”), and the best way to practice them in by playing with the building blocks of cultural literacy, especially the humanities (areas of study concerned with human culture; especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy).