Saturday, April 22, 2006

Family Education

There is a lot of talk about "homeschooling" going around, and for the sake of understanding, we did "homeschool" our children. However, the term "homeschooling" does not accurately describe the experience at all. For us, it was family based learning.

We didn't always stay at home, or even learn at home, and we didn't conduct it like any school. Wherever we were, we could learn, and we looked for opportunities not just to collect knowledge, but to experience life, grow in wise behaviour, and develop our thinking so that we could understand the things that confronts us in life. We thought about the pioneers and how the children participated in life with their parents, erstwhile learning to read and write in the evenings by lamplight. This seemed far more balanced that constantly doing paperwork.

"School" in Greek is "schule," which means "spare time." In bygone days, people would take some leisure time to go and listen to lectures on various subjects such as science, mathematics or philosophy. We had this "spare time" concept in mind, when we nurtured our children. (Today, not everything has to be learned in a place set apart for book-learning. Knowledge is accessible and widely available in many forms!)

Life was to be lived, and school was reading and writing about the life we were discovering. Once the children learned to read, they were encouraged to research from books and magazines, the things that fascinated them, whether it be a country of the world, a language, art, music, science, writing, landscaping, or publishing.

Every day was filled with purpose, and that is why family-based learning continues to affect my attitude and my life as a grandparent. Even when the children are grown, there is so much to look forward to. When our family-based education was completed, I felt that we were just getting started, but it really had never ended. By showing the children how to research something, or how to overcome a problem, or see a project through from start to finish, we gave them the tools for victory in their lives. Each child was taught to have a strong sense of purpose, which to this day remains our basis of stability, from the age of 2 to 62. (the exact ages of the youngest to the eldest in our combined families).

One thing that I observed about many people who were just married was that they were depressed. When I inquired about their backgrounds, I found that all of them were highly socialized in their youth, with full schedules of activities. Family-based learning, however, was more of a natural socialization, brought about by their service to others, hospitality, classes they took in music or art, and their own businesses which brought them into contact with customers. They didn't have years and years of forced socialization. When the socialized children married, they had greater difficulty settling down and being quiet at home with one person.

A habit that helped our family a great deal was a forced "quiet time." A few hours a day, usually during the hot afternoons, they were each to find a place by themselves and either take a nap, lay down, read, write, or just stare into space for awhile, and be quiet. At first, they didn't like this, and it was their mother who fell asleep, while they crept around doing things. Eventually they came to look forward to this quiet time and now as adults, say that those were the most precious hours of their youth.

Another rich experience that we enjoyed was daily walks. There was a special technique to this. Everyone had to observe what was going on around them and use all their senses to experience it. And, not only would the physical sensations of the walk be important;-the spiritual benefits as well. When we arrived home, they were encouraged to write in their journals everything that happened on those walks, both within their minds and in nature, which included little drawings and colored illustrations.

I wasn't always actively looking for "lessons" and it wasn't a drill-seargant type of education, but when there was an opportunity to expose my children to something good, I took it. Walking past a store, I might notice an advertisement for a free classical concert in a local park. One advantage of home based learning, is that you are not confined to the classroom and can get up and go when you want to. There might be a nice sunny day where good common sense dictated that it would be better to take a sketchpad and some paints to a scenic area outside and learn about art. A cold, gloomy day may have triggered off a lesson in hospitality. (People need hospitality more on dark, dreary afternoons).

Family-based learning, or "parental schooling," is very flexible and enables the children to live a real life and learn how to have a good family of their own someday. Instead of waking them up in the dark hours and rushing them "somewhere else," they learn to be content where they are. One of the things that many people suffer when they settle down to home life as young married couples, is restlessness. If you get up in the morning and go somewhere else for years and years, it is difficult to overcome this tendency.

We found that a study of our society of the 1800's yielded a great insight into how life was conducted when people were more family oriented. This might be a study worthwhile for other families, to discover how our forebearers of the Victorian era conducted their daily lives, what they ate, how they dressed, their recreation, their crafts, hobbies and art, their family celebrations, and their businesses.

As a result of our family based learning, our children have had a rich education. When they were a certain age, they were encouraged to order as many books as they liked, from several catalogs, on the subjects that interested them. In the early 80's there wasn't as much available to the homeschool community, so we used a catalog called "Dover." One of our children ordered some books about Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo.
(One of these artists was the inventor of the paint-by-number method).

There are those who say that education cannot be accomplished unless a child sits in a room with 25 other children and listens to one teacher. They insist he must also be in that school building daily for 5 hours. This does not guarantee that the student is absorbing what he is learning, nor does it prove that the mind is engaged fully all of the time. Family based learning, in our experienc, kept the mind alert to the conscience--to the needs of others, to personal responsibilities and to the presence of God.

Sometimes people were very concerned that being cooped up together we would grow tired of one another and just quarrel all the time, but they inteacted together just fine and retreated to private places when they wanted to be left alone. One cannot say that going to school in a group was any more exciting. Often those children grew tired of the same group and even dreaded facing them day after day. We found home a place of forbearance, with a chance to start afresh with each other the next day.

As these elements of family learning were translated into the home, respect for life and property increased. Our home became a most desireable spot. We shared our values and preferred one another's company for an outing, a conversation or a tea party. The house was a place of beauty and order. The way we spent our time had meaning. Home was a place where we were happy.

(More to come)

"Into the Garden" by Susan Rios


Anonymous said...

I appreciate this article Mrs. Sherman, I am looking forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I see that you have made yet another reference to the pioneers. From my understanding, during the time of the one-room school houses, the "school year" was often set up to accomodate for one's home life instead of it having to be vice-versa like it is today. If a family situtaion required one to miss school, so be it. Now, generally, short of death, illness (one's own), school activities, or some other "pressing" reason to be absent, one is expected to be present at school for x number of hours a day, five days a week, (at least in the public schools anyway), and attendance at school has become a legal issue. I went to public school from start to finish. All the schools I went to had a "closed campus" policy, which meant that one couldn't even leave school grounds for lunch. In middle school and high school at least, if you are absent or tardy too many times or if you misbehave, you are subject to the possibility of "detention", or some variation thereof (such as "Friday Night School", which was initiated during the back half of my high school career) which keeps you at school even longer. Also, a major amount of the subjects a student studies is often of the school's choosing, though the student has more and more say in their "electives" in middle school and high school. I find it quite odd that some schools will ban spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, etc., and yet does not seem to have any problem with miniskirts in cheerleading or short shorts in "girls'" sports (such as volleyball) or as an integral part of a uniform in a mandated gym class (such as the one I had to take my freshman year).
I had no idea that the Greek word for "school" meant "spare time". That must've been nice. Nowadays, a student is expected to give some of his/her "spare time" to homework (which I believe is called that for a reason) or at least extensive studying. (In college the "rule of thumb is that "for every hour you're in class, you're supposed to spend two hours preparing FOR class". I doubt that every single college student, including myself, follows that rule very closely.) Anyway, I don't blame you for being Pro-homeschooling. Unfortunatly, I probably won't homeschool any children that I have unless I happen to marry someone who has been exposed to homeschooling (or is at least particularly in favor of it). While I don't think that every aspect of my academic career thus far was absolutely negative, I do recall not caring much for school in elementary school, but I didn't know why. Well that's all I have on this end for now. I look forward to seeing more articles on this site.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article. I still have one child left at home that is "homeschooled" (a high schooler). It's a way of life I've thanked God many times that He led us to do.

Love you articles/blogs! Looking forward to the continuation.


Lydia said...

You may think you got to "choose" your own courses, but students are only choosing amongst the selections already "chosen" by the schools, not from outside sources, such as the Dover catalog that I mentioned, ABeka, or other sources.
He may also choose a subject or class, but that class has already been chosen by the system. Real choice involves a whole lot more than what is available in the schools. There is a great big world out there in which there is a host of learning opportunities and materials to chose from. You can also make up your own, as we did, before so much curriculum was available.

I hear from girls in college who say that spare time is spent doing laundry. A homemaker finds spare time somewhat the opposite. After she has organized the home and caught up on necessary things, she looks forward to reading something or writing a letter.

Lydia said...

Due to the subject of our blog, it is more to the point that schools do not prepare young women for the life at home. Even if they do choose a career, they will be responsible for careful shopping, making ends meet, taking care of a home and a lot of the social life. So many hours a day at school is wearying, studying subjects that have little meaning in real daily life, unless it is applied to a career. When they finish school, they won't be inclined to settle down to home life full time. Their education taught them otherwise, and they may think that life is abouthaving a career and making money, rather than about making a home.

Amy Jo said...

Great article!!! Thank you so much!

Amy Jo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. Many people I come in contact with do not want to hear of any success that we've had of my children learning at home. They do not want my family to prosper apart from the public school.

Motherhood and home making are not esteemed but rather, replaced with the want of power in the workplace. Elizabeth from

Lydia said...

Maybe you could come and help me set it up for photos and take some pictures. I have been trying to do it myself, but my house changes so much from week to week, depending on the event, the company, or the activity. Tables get moved, vignettes get changed around, etc. because of different activities. When the grandchildren come, everything changes to accommodate them, so they can run their cars on the coffee table ;-)

TheNormalMiddle said...

I love the way you described your educational journey with your children. This is what we strive to do with our "home school" as well. I had never thought of it in the terms you described it but I much prefer Family Based Learning over homeschool anyday!

Maybe you can market the acronym FBL :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for this article. I am excitedly waiting for the "more to come"! This blog has blessed me on a continual basis, and in turn has blessed my precious family. Thank you for "mentoring" me. I've been praying and searching for those wonderful Titus 2 women of age to pass on their wisdom and knowledge for years now. I never in my wildest imagination would've thought that the Lord would use a few very godly and willing women via the internet to be the mentors in my life. I am so thankful for His provision, and I hope that I will be able to one day be a "wise woman of age" to the future generations. I am a blessed wife of a wonderful man, for nearly 9 years now. I have 2 of the most handsome boys you could ever lay eyes on w/ sweetness to match. And I now have a wonderful baby girl! I was afraid of having a daughter until very recently, feeling that I would not be the mother that she needs in order to be the future homekeeper, wife and mother she will be one day. But God is faithful, and He has led me to some wonderful women to mentor me, and keep filling my mind with what is pleasing to Him in regards to biblical womanhood. And yes, for this season, it's been via the web. So again, thank you for what you do here. I am a grateful recipient of your teaching and encouragement!

I am usually what I've heard termed a "lurker" here on this blog. I would comment more, but I tend to be long-winded. I would spend too much time on the computer if I commented all the time. I usually print off the articles a couple of times a week and read them while I'm nursing. But I just had to let you know that this article in particular has been an answer to prayer in our lives.

Many blessings~
Mrs. A. Barnes

Kimi Harris said...

Hello Mrs. Sherman,
Thanks for the post on homeschooling. My father in law, Gregg Harris, is a big advocate of what he calls "Delight directed Study". A lot of his ideas are very similar to what you are talking about. I was wondering, do you have any resources to recommend about the 1800's? You mentioned studying that time period and I would love to hear what you read!

Lydia said...

There are so many resources for this period I hardly know what to tell you. To start off, I'd recommend a book by Linda Lichter, called "The "Benevolence of Manners." It helps those who don't know much about the period get a summary of it. From it, you will get an idea of how to identify and study the period yourself. It is the historical era most close to our hearts because so many of us have pictures of our kinfolk from that era, and own things passed down from them. Much of our faith was learned from their examples, as well as our dreams of having a happy family and a beautiful house.

From What I've heard, Mrs. Lichter set about to write at first for a major newspaper, about the progress of women's rights from the Victorian era to the present time. She purposed to show how much better life was now, but in doing the research, found that the Victorian era had been unfairly vilified and trashed by modernists of the 1900's, who rebelled against the values of their forebearers.

The book explores the lives of these people in the concept of their architecture, their letters and journals, their clothing, their industry, their work, crafts and art, food, mealtimes, music and entertainment, religion, courtship, family relationships, morals, funerals, toys, careers and manners.

You can get this on ebay or amazon for just a few dollars.

After reading this book I began to view life from that period. The thing I noticed the most was the declension of architecture and clothing styles. Both went from careful and respectful design, to flat nothingness.

Lydia said...

It is really family life, not home school. We aren't always home, and learning doesn't always take place in one spot, and it isn't in schule, but all of the time. We want our children to grow up to have good relationships and function well in their life's work. It takes a lot of things to accomplish that. One is plenty of rest. I believe the brain develops better and the body heals itself with proper rest. It is sad to see children up at 5 am, barely 7 years old, getting ready to catch a bus or be rushed off to school so their parents can go to work.It is no wonder their immune system gets run down and they spend so much time out of the year sick.

Kimi Harris said...

Thanks so much for the recommendation! I am looking forward to getting it!

Lydia said...

There are a lot of other great books that give a good insight into the Victorian culture, which I'll talk about later. You'll have to ignore some of Mrs. Lichter's scathing remarks. She has harsh language for today's feminists, whom she partially blames for the downhill slide of the culture regarding women. She trounces the idea that the 19th century women were miserable, mistreated, repressed creatures with no freedom, and she gives evidence through their writing, music, and general culture. I sometimes point to something from the 19th century and ask, "Does it look like a miserable, repressed person painted that picture?" I use some of the 19th century pictures on our weblog and at LAF in the Lady Lydia Speaks column, to illustrate their regard for what is lovely, and for family life before public schools became popular.

Lydia said...

One of the biggest eye-opener pieces of evidence of the 19th century love for life is found in their paintings. I'll provide a list of my favorites sometime in the future and you can look them up.

Kimi Harris said...

I was wondering if you could clarify what you meant here: "Much of our faith was learned from their examples". Did you mean that they were examples to you of a life of faith for God? I just didn't want to misunderstand you. : ) Thanks!
I ordered my copy of Benevolence of Manners and can't wait to get it!

Lydia said...

Great lessons in faith. For example, their pioneer days and the pressures they endured, erstwhile remembering their purpose in life and attending to matters at home.

Lydia said...

One of the author's first sentences in the book is "America is hurting..." Another quote that stuck in my mind was "Victorians would be astonished at our quest for self-esteem. They sought instead to do something worthy of self-esteem. To do good was a reason to feel good."

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking the time and thought to post these... The insights have been very inspiring to me.

Lydia said...

Kimi: you won't think all the chapters are that great, but it is worth the price of the book to read Mrs. Lichter's comments comparing today's me-first attitudes to the Victorian belief in self-restraint, putting others first, and behaving honorably toward the opposite sex.

Lydia said...


Your blog article on friendship is right on! I've pondered over the puzzling way that friends act, as I've seen such strange changes in people's behaviour compared to "how things used to be," and your comments explain it well.

Tell Sarah that her blog article on ettiquette is wonderful too--I couldn't find a place to post a comment on it, or I would have.

Kimi Harris said...

Mrs. Sherman,
Thanks so much for coming to my blog! I have continued the "series" in part two (Friendships, part two: What foolish friends look like). I am glad that you enjoyed my post.
I will be sure to pass on your comment to Sarah. She has had to take down her comment section temporarily because of some problems trying to edit some rude comments from others. : (

Tracy said...

I just wanted to thank you for such an inspiring article. I have been feeling for the last 2 weeks that it seems I can either be a Homemaker or a Homeschooler but never both at the same time :) When we have a good day and get alot of schooling done, the house ends up a mess and I hardly have energy left to make dinner. If I get alot done around the house and a nice meal ready at the end of the day it is at the expense of our achieving any schoolwork.
We have 5 children 6 and under, hence the messy house. It seems I can hardly turn around and someone has made mess :) Your article has inspired me to try things a little differently. I have written about it on my blog if you would like to have a look.

Tracy said...

Silly me, you can find my blog at