I highly respect Charlotte’s, at Waltzing Matilda, opinion and homeschooling advice. She is a veteran homeschooling mom and from what I can see at her blog, a very, very good one at that. So I was happy to see her review of Teaching from Rest and believe there is a lot of good truth in what she has to say. However, I think that I personally have to come down somewhere in the middle on this book and her philosophy of teaching.
As Charlotte points out, you need structure, and checks and balances. We are raising children that will one day be out in the world as adults. They need to be able to keep up with a rigorous schedule, develop perseverance and diligence. It is important for them to have goals and a definitive time frame to achieve them. While homeschooling is not just about achieving more, there should be minimum standards that we dedicate ourselves to achieving. We also want to give our children the best education possible and open doors to them according to their strengths.
However, I think we have to remember why we are homeschooling and be pulled back every so often to the heart of our vocations. No matter where on the continuum, from school at home to unschooling, that you fall, I think we all agree that the public school model of educating is not our ideal. If we were undying supporters of the public school system, why would we be homeschooling, right? My experience as a former public school teacher taught me that the system looks more for quantitative measures than qualitative achievements, more for lengthy checklists than internal mastery and inspiration, and more for great breath of subjects covered without much depth. Likewise, as I stated above, homeschooling is a vocation. That means it requires a good deal of dedication, sacrifice, and seeking of grace to be accomplished. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are called to educate our children by God, for God.
I understand the need to have a plan and stick to it, to layout a schedule, curriculum, lesson plan, and assessment strategy. I do not believe that all children, if left to their own devices, will come to the realization that they must achieve a certain level of mathematical, reading, writing, and researching skills. I have a child that would most likely never learn any of that, because it just isn’t a priority and quite honestly sitting still to learn any of it is a dreaded skill that we continue to work on. While I admire the free-spirit, artistic daydreams, and butterfly chasing, it is hardly a resume building life. That is why I believe that I come down somewhere between Charlotte’s call for structure and Sarah desire for peaceful flexibility.
There is much to be gleaned from this book and no matter what your homeschooling style, it is good to be reminded of the importance of placing priority on educating the heart and soul. Perhaps it is because I have only been homeschooling for five years or because I still have a toddler underfoot, that this book touched me in a way that I truly needed. Our children are with us for such a short time and then they move on to live their lives. In the end what will matter most? I believe what will have the biggest impact on their life and the world is grounding them in the faith and teaching them how to live well as children of God. St Francis said, “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.” I think that being in a state of peace and rest no matter what is falling down around us and always placing the pursuit of God as our first task, is the best preaching mothers can do. As homeschoolers, we usually spend 24 hours a day with our children, but how much time do we spend really with them, present to them in the moment, as opposed to just in the same home?
The release of this book and The Little Oratory so close to each other leads me to believe that we are truly being called to build a life, family, and house of prayer in our own little corner of the world. Prayer changes everything, think of what the world would be like if every home were a house of prayer! So while I am not ready to abandon my discipline of finishing all our assigned work in the assigned time, I realize that some flexibility is in order and is truly a gift of the homeschooling life style. I am going to strive to rest in Him who is all and above all as I seek to accomplish my mission–to lead my little ones to Heaven.
**I received no compensation for this review. I purchased the book independently and simply wished to share my views.