Trickle-down learning for mom; what homeschoolers teach us

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These books are those in my stack, some of which wobble on my nightstand. (Photo Joy Cherrick)

The more I read, the more children will read, as this son under a grand map. (Photo by Joy Cherrick)

Intellectual life shifts from outside work to homeschooling

By Joy Cherrick

One of the most surprising aspects of homeschooling my children continues to be how much of an education I am receiving. I’ve been pressed to learn more about myself and how I work best, more about my God as He sanctifies me, and more about the world we live in, so that I can lead my children on a journey that introduces them to truth, goodness and beauty. My education happens through my daily work and setting aside time to grow my mind through reading.

When I take up the torch of education for myself, a little magic happens in my home. There is a trickle down effect; when I’m learning and growing my children catch my fire and they too learn and grow. See? Magic.

Learning through work

Before my oldest child began first grade, I ran a small online business. I found that I was able to learn a lot about myself through that work. I really enjoyed the intellectual challenges of problem solving with technology, managing a team and expressing myself creatively through writing and graphic design. When my husband and I decided that it was time for me to put that work aside and focus on our family, I was a little disappointed because of the intellectual life I was able to exercise through that work. And yet, I knew that God was calling me to different work.

So, I challenged myself to pour out my creativity and intellectual energy into our home life. It didn’t take me long to find some inefficient systems needing an overhaul and some skills I could improve upon to help our home run more smoothly.

This shift surprised me. I don’t think that I believed my home could provide the intellectual challenge that the business world provided. I was excited to find ways to express my “business” skills and creativity in our home. My work in our home became less of a chore and a burden and more of a habit and a source of delight. I was able to find beauty and fulfillment in the seemingly mundane.

That shift happened years ago now and I can still see the benefits of taking on the work that is before me with diligence. One thing that I’ve learned is just how important work is to my daily rhythm. It is not something to groan and complain about (though that does happen), instead it is realizing the privilege of being made in the image of God, then joining Him in the daily work of creating and subduing a healthy home atmosphere. We were, after all, made to work and we join God in His work as we do the everyday tasks that are less than glamorous.

Visit the homeschool expo this coming Friday, Saturday

I can see the need for meaningful work in my children as well. Chores create a strong sense of belonging and significance and is a tangible way to show children “you belong” and “you make a difference.” Even though my children grumble about doing their daily chores, I can see their pride when they’ve finished a job well. It’s more in the “you’ll thank me later” category, but we certainly are developing a strong esprit de corps within the daily grind.

As Timothy Keller says in his book Every Good Endeavor, “without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness.

People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically and spiritually.” (p. 23) I can see how valuable work is in my own life.

Homeschool expo puts educational choices in your hand

The fullness of work has been energizing, even the tasks that I used to despise (such as cooking), I’ve been able to find beauty and order and a routine. I’m thankful for the growth and education that have come as a result of this meaningful work. Which brings me to the next way that I’m receiving an education within the walls of my home: Reading.

Learning through reading

I often hear moms say “I’m not a reader.” Well, I confess that I used to say the same thing. But, as of this writing I have seven books next to my nightstand that I am actively reading through. I can see how motherhood and the decision to homeschool specifically, lit a fire for learning.

Part of this change came out of necessity. My husband is an avid reader and well, he was always reading so I figured I’d join him. The other thing that spurred my enjoyment of books was that I had questions and I was looking for answers. I found that books were the most effective way to get my questions answered. I read to know.

I often get asked by friends with small children how I find the time to read so many books. My two most consistent times of day are (1) During our afternoon rest time. Rest time can be anywhere from 1-2 hours long depending on nap schedules and whether or not my older kids are engrossed in books or playing with toys, paper dolls or coloring books. (2) Just before bed. I always make a habit of reading a book just before falling asleep. I made it through one book in one month by just reading 1-2 pages and then drifting off to sleep. Sometimes I’ll go to bed earlier if I’m really excited about a particular book. These short spurts here and there have added up to a lot of reading hours over the years.

I mentioned earlier that I have about seven books going right now. I usually make it through the end of my books and try to have three books going (though that grows and contracts with seasons):

1. Spiritual or devotional

My spiritual or devotional books for the past few years have been something by Timothy Keller. I found that his books are easy to read, are heavy in scripture and provide me with a Truth to chew on, even if I only get to read one page in one sitting. My favorite book has been his book on prayer.

I ended up reading through it twice because I wanted to take my time to put the ideas into practice. Having a spiritual book in my rotation seems to provide me a sense of relief and helps me remember to whom I belong.

2. Light reading fiction or a nonfiction topic I’m currently learning about

My light reading usually is for escaping or resting my mind from life’s challenge. This year I’ve been reading through the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small. The mind-break this provides is healing to me.

Sometimes I’m not interested in fiction at all. And during these times I’m usually in the middle of a research project to find an answer to some question on my mind. Part of my personality is that I’m curious, so this is how I satiate my curiosity. This research can take me weeks or months as I plow through books looking for answers to questions. It seems to do the same thing for me as fiction; it transports me to another world.

3. A challenging book

This has been something new for me in the past few years. Picking up books that are really hard for me to read or that I might not pick up on my own. The first book that was difficult for me to understand was Toward of Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason.

The language was challenging and I had a lot of words to look up (though I skipped over many). I found that I could only read a few paragraphs or a page or two before needing to stop and figure out what I had just read.

That book took me about nine months to read and thankfully, in the middle of reading it I found a book club in my area to join that helped me process what I was reading.

It’s fun to watch how, as parents, our passions and joys are picked up by our children. There is no telling what our children will be “when they grow up” but I’m excited to be on this learning journey with them. Homeschooling my children has opened the doors to many worlds for me I just didn’t know existed. So, I guess the magic is not just for kids, but for me as well.

Register for homeschool expo July 20, 21 at Camp Jordan in East Ridge

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