Identity Directed Home Schooling
This article is excerpted and expanded from a seminar by Chris Davis of The Elijah Company in the CD set From Home School to Home Business.
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Most of us who home-school strive to give our children positive experiences with relationships and try to limit their exposure to people and circumstances that reinforce teen rebellion. So why, in home-schooling families, do we have children who begin to pull away from their parents as they reach puberty?
I have watched this happen time after time in close-knit Christian families, and I have also seen the stress this causes between parents and children. Even when the child-parent relationship seems strong, children can begin to develop a sense of “otherly-ness” when they reach the teen years, and too often parents interpret this “pulling away” as rebellion or rejection. Is this a sign of rebellion or rejection of the family values we parents have so carefully guarded? I want to suggest another interpretation of this often painful time in the lives of teens and their parents.
I don’t consider my children’s teen years a time to simply endure, as in “This too shall pass.” Instead, I prefer to say that these are the “Years of Identification.” I use this phrase because I believe that too many parents dislike and fear adolescence; but if they understood the dynamics of the teen years, they would look forward to them with real excitement.
I believe that when God gives a child to parents, that child comes prepackaged with a set of giftings and callings uniquely his or her own. Inside that child is a seed which, if properly nourished, will grow up into the mature expression of what is within that seed. Just as simply as an acorn (which looks nothing at all like an oak tree) becomes an oak tree under the right conditions, so a child will (under the right conditions) grow up to become exactly the person his Father created him to become.
Christians don’t speak much of “destiny” anymore, mainly because it has become a catch-word among humanists and New Agers. But we need to look again at the concept of destiny. The Bible is full of hints that each one of us is created for a specific time and purpose in God’s unfolding plan.
Ephesians 2: 10 even says we each have “good works which God predestined for us” before the world was ever created. Before time began, God had your son or daughter on His mind, He chose your child, and He prearranged a life for him or her to live. So parents, those teenagers in your home are not just biological events. They are beings pre-determined by God and destined to, just as the Bible says of David, “serve their generation well.”
During the teen years, children begin to realize they are not just extensions of their parents, but have their own identities and destinies. When the child’s developing identity is very different from the parents’ expectations, there can be a lot of relational grief and adversity.
Family tensions are compounded because the child (being a child) will tend to express his still developing identity in immature and inappropriate ways. If you want a biblical example of an adolescent who created family tensions because he had a special destiny, just read the story of Joseph. He must have been one obnoxious teen!
I have seen much that is adversarial in home-schooling a teen be nothing more than the parents’ inability to let go of personal expectations and accept what God may be creating in the child, even though that creation is still very rough around the edges.
We may have dreams of our children following certain careers (like becoming missionary doctors), or having certain temperaments (compliant, sensitive to the needs of others, respectful), or excelling at certain skills (like math or science or music), or even accomplishing one of our goals (like getting a basketball scholarship to college). When a child doesn’t follow our dreams, and even seems resistant to fulfill them, it is easy to form negative opinions: he’s lazy, he’s not trying, he’s resistant, he doesn’t have any initiative, he’s rebellious, he’s uncooperative, and so on.
The simple truth may be that we are forcing the child to fit a mold he was never created to fill, and his spirit is reacting to the pressure. We are trying to make our child into something he was never meant to be. There are a thousand little ways we may be doing this—from forcing him to have the same interests we have, to trying to make him become involved in activities we wish we could have been involved in when we were young, to sending him through a course of study that has nothing to do with what God Himself wants this child to prioritize educationally, and on and on.
Could we actually be violating our child’s spirit by pressuring him to become someone God never meant him to be? Could the resistance we see simply be his way of coping with the pressure?
When a child becomes resistant, resentful, or obnoxious, and we parents are tempted to label them as rebellious and disrespectful, we should ask ourselves, “What’s really going on here? Is there something God has placed in this child that we are not respecting and encouraging? Is he struggling with a sense of destiny that leads him in a different direction than the direction we are trying to make him go? Is his way of being a person different from our way?”
At this point, three types of trust are critical. First, we must trust God—trust that He knows what He is doing, trust that He has put this “seed” of identity and destiny in our child, trust that He is capable of bringing that seed to fruition, and trust that He will “clue us in” about who our child really is and whether what we are dealing with is identity-related or is truly rebellion.
Second, we must trust ourselves—trust that all of our effort to be good parents and give our children a nurturing, Christian upbringing will ultimately be rewarded, even though we made plenty of mistakes.
Third, we must trust our child, and this is the hardest kind of trust to have. It is also very humbling, because this kind of trust requires us to relax our parent roles where we are “large and in charge” and become more like older brothers or sisters in Christ to our sons and daughters. We must trust that all the good and godly input we gave over the years actually lodged in our child’s heart, and is really in there, even though we can’t see any evidence of it.
We must also trust that our child has a deep enough relationship with the Lord to actually hear from God and respond to Him, even though that response may be expressed in foolish or immature ways. When we start trusting our children’s relationships with the Lord, we allow them to have more and more say in who they are and what they want to do with their time, and we begin respecting their individuality.
We have all heard the biblical injunction to “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Most often this Bible verse in Proverbs is used to justify moral training, but that is not all the verse is about.
The Hebrew word which is translated “to train up” is also used in another place in the Bible. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, the word translated “dedicate” is the same Hebrew word used in the Proverbs verse as “train up.” This Hebrew word means to “discriminate,” to “narrow the focus.”
Simply put, as a child grows up, we the parents should be continually narrowing the focus of this child’s set of educational and practical experiences to be more and more specific to who this child was created to be. When “dedicated” (the focus narrowed, or the Temple identified as to what it really was), the Temple could never again be considered whatever those watching might have speculated was being constructed in their midst. It was the Temple of God! It was not a racquetball court, a school, or the king’s palace.
God created your child. He gave this future young man or young woman to you. As the years go by, He will let you know who this child is (or is to become). Each child is different. Some children are so different from the other members of their families that parents can hardly comprehend how to best help them. Parents should pay attention to each of their children and ask the Creator to constantly give them insight into who each child is. Slowly but surely, the Spirit of God—the unseen Presence in your home—will let you know His design for each child you are raising.
With this growing knowledge, you will be able to give that child an education (actually a growing-up experience) tailored to his specific needs, and one which will prepare him or her to fully become the person God had in mind before the foundation of the world.
When you are “narrowing the focus” so that you concentrate on certain things, you will have to leave other things “out of focus;” you will have to let go of the “good” for the sake of the “best.” Perhaps the biggest fear of home-schooling parents is that their children will have learning “gaps”—that something will be left out of their child’s education.
Because of this, and because our society promotes over-achievement, parents tend to try and cover too much, to make their children knowledgeable about everything. The better approach would be to use the elementary years to build a general academic foundation, but then continually “narrow the focus” as the children grow older and as the parents have a better understanding of each child’s unique skills, interests, and giftings.
It takes both time and resources to be good at anything. Helping a child find his identity means money must be spent on resources and experiences. It means time must be spent paying attention to the child’s personality, abilities, and likes and dislikes. It means emotional energy must be spent working through the inevitable relational problems that arise from trying to get to know children as people, not just as “kids.” It also means giving your children the large blocks of time they need to become good at whatever it is they need to master.
Consider the following statistics:
1. The average college student now takes six years to finish a degree since he changes majors 2.3 times (and 40% never finish at all).
2. Only 10% of those who finish college go on to work in the field for which they spent years and thousands of dollars preparing.
3. The average American changes jobs seven times and has three complete career changes.
4. Many adults, especially men, experience a period of emotional turmoil in mid-life when they question their meaning and purpose. This event is so common that society has coined a term for it: “identity crisis.”
How do I interpret these statistics? One thing seems fairly obvious to me. Americans are trying to figure out who they are and what to do with their lives! I don’t want my sons to contribute to these statistics. I would like to believe each boy could enter adulthood with a fairly clear sense of identity and having had the time, resources, and emotional support to become really good at what he does best.
Our three sons have never known any other form of schooling but home-schooling for their elementary and high school years. They are now all graduated from home schooling and are in the process of carving out their own lives, but we have a close familiy and strong relationships, and all my sons are walking with the Lord.
But as they entered puberty, they no longer saw themselves as mere extensions of Mom and Dad. They began to develop a personality, character, and dominant traits that said, “I am someone different and not just an extension of you.” The way they expressed their differences was often inappropriate and immature and sometimes offended me.
So I had to look beyond their behavior and try to distinguish their true identity. I could look beyond their behavior because I believe two things: first I believe that my sons are children of God, which means they are not just my sons but also are my brothers in Christ; second, I believe my sons, imperfect as they may be, genuinely want to become men of God. Believing these two things, I can place myself “alongside” them in the role of brother as well as “above” them in the role of father in the process of helping them find out who they are. I can also trust that “He who began a good work” in my sons “will be faithful to complete it.”
A special plea to fathers: I am convinced that one of the most important responsibilities a father has is to identify his children. What do I mean by “identify?” I mean that he helps his children know who they really are. Over the years I have realized just how powerful a father’s words can be in the lives of his children.
We fathers are constantly identifying our children with our words. Unfortunately, many of us speak words which say, in effect, “You are no good. You are not worth much. You will never amount to anything. You’ll never make it.” Over time our children incorporate what we speak over them into their identity and begin thinking: “I am not very smart/good/pretty/worthy, etc.” With our words we fathers have not only given our children negative identities, but we have undermined God’s identities for them.
What else do I mean when I talk about a father identifying his children? I mean the father pays attention to what the Holy Spirit reveals as identifying characteristics the child is showing on a daily basis. What does the child like to do in his or her spare time? What toys does the child like, or what games is the child good at? What broad areas (such as people skills or mechanical skills) is the child beginning to exhibit?
As you see these (often only with an internal eye), take the time to speak words of positive identification to the child, such as “I notice you are really good at working with machinery. You seem to be able to sense what is wrong with a piece of equipment and you can usually figure out how to fix it.”
I do this when the boys are together with me (and I make sure this happens often). I will tell Seth, “I am always amazed and impressed when you are able to look at a problem and go right to the source of what’s wrong. You may be wondering why I am always calling on you when I can’t figure out what’s wrong with the computer or lawn mower, etc. That’s because I know you can tell me right away. You have tremendous problem-solving skills. I believe you could take just about any problem and solve it.”
My second son James may be listening to these words. He knows he cannot do the things Seth can do, and he will begin to feel a little jealous of Seth and how I am able to say such good words to his brother. Everyone needs a benediction—not flattery, mind you—but exactly what the word “benediction” means (bene: good, diction: word): “good words.”
So James may ask, “And what about me, Dad?” I turn to James and say, “James, you are not very good at these things.” James knows this already, but he is a little surprised that I would say so. He wants me to say something good about him, too. But part of defining James is to let him know who he is not. He is not a problem-solver, but he has other strengths.
Now I am able to say to James, “The reason you are not very good at the things Seth can do is that God has put in you completely different abilities. James, you are one of the most ‘people’ persons I know. Even little children follow you around.”
“Everyone loves you, James, and you are a strong man of God. People watch you, and you give them the courage to trust the Lord in their lives because you, as a young man with many health problems, are trusting in the Lord for your future: a future filled with music and drama, because that’s who James is.”
When I am through talking to James, he has no desire to be like Seth. He is James—that unique person who is like no one else. And so it is with Blake, and so it should be with each of our children. It is the great responsibility and joy of fathers to do this for their children. It is one way of imparting the “blessing” so often mentioned in the Bible.
Let us seek to identify our children and give them the great edge others leave home without: a sense of who they are meant to become, and the skills to begin on the path of what they came into the world to do.
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Resources for rethinking education
Books by John Gatto. These books will change the way you think about education. Gatto was a public school teacher for decades and New York's Teacher of the Year, so he has first-hand experience with the effects of public schooling. Not only do his books discuss the major issues about what schooling does to our children, he offers insights into what a true education entails and reflects on our society as a whole and the distorted thinking that leads us to subject our children to an influence that robs them of their creativity and enthusiasm for learning. Gatto's books are "MUST READS."
Dumbing Us Down
A Different Kind of Teacher
Books by John Holt. Holt's books are wonderfully thought-provoking and give you a real appreciation for the natural learning ability of your children. Read all of these! How Children Learn, Learning All the Time, and Teach Your Own .
Also highly recommended: Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School
Endangered Minds by Jane Healy. Subtitled “Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It,” this is truly a
significant book. The book's premise is that today's children, bombarded by a fast-paced
media culture and with very little interaction with thinking adults, develop different “habits of mind” than children of the past and are therefore unable to tackle the skills involved in learning. Healy clearly explains why our modern lifestyles sabotage
the ability to learn and tells us what to do about it. In the companion book, Your Child's Growing Mind Healy discusses how thinking and learning abilities develop for skills like reading, writing, spelling, proper use of grammar, etc. and what parents can do to create the “mind pathways” that enhance these thinking and learning abilities. These books are "must haves."
Resources for choosing teaching materials
Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling. The title can be deceiving, because the book isn't just for those getting started, it's also very helpful to veteran home schoolers who want to re-evaluate what they are doing and the resources that are available to them.
Veteran home educators will dive into a vast amounts of up-to-date information with sections on Field Trips, Conferences, Retreats & Homeschool Days for the Whole Family, and Worldview & Leadership Training for Teens. There's also information on how to find everything from contests, to how to write a winning college application essay.
If there were one "top expert" in homeschooling, I would say Mary Pride is it. With her numerous books, Practical Homeschooling Magazine, and website, Mary knows her stuff.
Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School by Rebecca Rupp. This book does not come from a Christian orientation, but is one of the few books I know that gives you a checklist of what the traditional pre-K through 12th-grade curriculum expects a child to learn year by year and then tells you how to accomplish the same level of learning at home. Home Learning Year by Year also gives guidelines for the importance of each topic, pointing out which knowledge is essential and which is best for more expansive study based on your child's personal interests.
Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field is a
guide to equipping your children with the life
skills they will need as adults: people/home
life skills, time/space organization skills,
money management skills, healthy lifestyle
skills, spiritual habits, decision making skills,
creative skills, and celebration skills.
Christine is a home schooling mother herself,
and the book is written in such a way that it
may be used as a reference point and checklist of desired skills
and knowledge to be mastered.
Homeschooling the Early Years
Homeschooling the Middle Years
Homeschooling the Teen Years
Each of these books is a guide to successfully
homeschooling the age group it covers. Starting with
what makes the age group tick, chapters cover the
important aspects of learning, practical ways to approach
each subject area, and the many paths to success.
What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
What Your First Grader Needs to Know
What Your Second Grader Needs to Know
What Your Third Grader Needs to Know
What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know
What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know
What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know
This series of books covers what a child at each grade level should be learning in every subject. The books are great to have around to help you design your own curriculum and make sure you aren't leaving any "gaps." History, language arts, science, and several other subjects are covered in enough detail that the book could become your primary textbook for those subjects, but math is summarized, so further teaching materials may be needed there. As you develop your own "Home School Reference Center" of books you can refer to over and over, these need to have their own place there.
Home School Resources
Resources to discover how your child learns best
Developed by the authors of Discover Your Child's Learning Style, this is the most powerful and user friendly learning styles inventory in the world and it is NOW ONLINE! A Self-Portrait™ Profile assesses several aspects of learning style, quickly and simply, in language that is easily understood by everyone. These aspects are: Disposition, Modality, Environment, Interests, and Talents. If you want help in understanding what makes your child "tick" and how your can help him or her learn easier and better (or find out more about yourself), take this easy, quick learning styles assessment test. For more about this learning styles assessment test, CLICK HERE>>
Discover Your Child's Learning Style is a book you need. Period. It has more potential to improve your child's education - and your family relationships - than almost any other book I have ever read. The authors of this book have developed a "Learning Styles Model" of education that helps you discern your child's:
• Preferred learning environment
• Thinking Style
The book includes handy self-tests. Use these to find out just how each child in your family loves to learn... and what teaching approaches help or hinder his learning style. What a huge difference this will make in your homeschool... and in your family relationships!
Discover Your Children's Gifts will help you uncover your children's natural giftings and personality traits. It helps explain why their personality "quirks" are really evidences of their own God-given gifts. The theological foundation is very sound, making good sense of the main passages on spiritual gifts in a way very few others do. Gifts are broken into 1) Manifestation (sign gifts - 1 Cor 12-14; Acts 2) 2) Ministry (equipping gifts - Eph 4) & 3) Motivational (every-Christian-gifts - Rom 12).
Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos. Every now and then a book comes along that fills in so many gaps in my understanding that I want to tell everyone about it. Dr. Pallodino suggests that one in five children is an "Edison Trait child," meaning he or she has one or more of the following: dazzling intelligence, an active imagination, a free-spirited approach to life, and the ability to frustrate the you-know-what out of others. The heart of the issue is that these children think divergently, while schools generally reward convergent thinking. This book discusses the different types of approaches to life your children may have (dreamer, discover, or dynamo) and how you can most help each type succeed.
100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. I've always recommended Cathy's curriculum guides as the best out there for choosing teaching materials that "mesh" with who your family is. Now Cathy guides you through the process, offering her "Top Picks" from each subject area.
A major feature of 100 Top Picks is the charts showing the 100 Top Picks in relation to educational approaches, learning styles, and practical features such as prep time needed; design for independent, one-on-one, or group learning; and ease of use for the teacher. Complete reviews of each of the Top Picks provide parents the information they need to make the best choices for each of their children.
The first half of 100 Top Picks covers information that will help you decide your child's learning styles, help you decide what your "Philosophy of Education" is, and help you figure what to teach when. The second half has reviews for all 100 of the top picks. You will gain a lot of insight into what curriculum is available by reading these reviews. She even tosses some extra "Picks" here and there that would've made the list if her book's title was "200 Top Picks".
Resources for each of the different Teaching Approaches
Key resources for the different teaching approaches are found below and in the left-hand column.
Resources for the Classical Approach
Teaching the Trivium by Laurie and Harvey Bluedorn maintains that the classical style of education is designed to serve Christians well because it was the original model of education that God had in mind for his people to progress from knowledge, to understanding, to wisdom. This is a great book, for two reasons: (1) it takes the whole of the classical method and roots it soundly in the Bible, and (2) it lays out many options for a classical, biblically based course of study that are not overwhelming to the average family. Even if you never intend to use this approach, the many insights into education are well worth the price of the book.
Classical Education and the Home School by Douglas Wilson and others is a brief but thorough overview of Classical Christian education and the basics of Latin, of Logic, of Rhetoric, and of Christian Worldview thinking from a home school perspective.
The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Teaching history chronologically; reading great books; learning to speak well; mastering another language; focusing on understanding and thinking skills.... these are the kinds of things that produced some of our most influential scientists, statesmen and leaders in the past. Here is THE reference book for people who choose to blend the best of family-centered, home-based learning with a rigorous quest for academic excellence.
The Well-Educated Mind In this "sequel" to The Well Trained Mind, Bauer and Wise help parents seeking self-education in the classical tradition.
The Story of the World, Volume 1; The Story of the World, Volume 2; The Story of the World, Volume 3; The Story of the World, Volume 4; First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind; The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. These are all teaching materials for elementary ages based on the classical approach presented in The Well Trained Mind.
Resources for the Unit Study Approach
Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt shares how anyone can develop unit studies. Cathy Duffy says, “If you have been avoiding unit studies because the work involved sounds overwhelming, this book is for you. This is a do-it-yourself guide for putting together your own unit studies based upon your family's goals and interests.” Many of Valerie's unit studies books are out of print but well worth getting your hands on because she is the best there is at explaining how to create unit studies for your children.
Design-A-Study Guides to History Plus by Kathryn Stout. History is the logical framework to built ongoing unit studies around. This is a complete guide to developing history unit studies for all ages integrating composition, spelling, vocabulary, math, science, music and art.
Resources for the Principle Approach
Teaching and Learning America's Christian History : A Christian Education Guide for the American Christian Home, the American Christian Church, the American Christian School : The Principle Approach by James Rose. This is the big red book that is the encyclopedia of the Principle Approach. It goes into depth about fundamental concepts and suggests beginning steps in the 4R process for each subject area.
Resources for the Living Books Approach
The first three books below are called the “Childlight Trilogy.” They were developed by Childlight, an organization dedicated to making Charlotte Mason’s ideas more well known. They are "must reads" for home school parents.
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. If you only read one book about Charlotte Mason's approach, let this be the one. In a wonderfully uplifting way, Mrs. Macaulay shares how education can be “the diet that opens doors for each child to build a relationship with God, other persons, & the universe.”
Books Children Love by Edith Wilson is an annotated compilation of “living books” arranged by subject.
Teaching Children by Diane Lopez. An invaluable guide to what children should know in grades K through 6 with teaching suggestions and reading lists of “living books” for each grade in every subject.
Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a guide to using whole books and real life to teach and train children at home. Each chapter focuses on a facet of home centered education.
A Charlotte Mason Companion. If you only read two books about Charlotte Mason’s approach, let this be the second. Karen Andreola leads the Charlotte Mason Research Institute and has been responsible for many of Mason’s ideas being introduced to the home schooling community. In this huge, oversized book, she masterfully explains how to adapt Mason’s ideas to the home school.
A Charlotte Mason Education.
Catherine Levison has collected the key points of Charlotte Mason's methods and presents them in a simple, straightforward way that will allow families to quickly maximize the opportunities of homeschooling.
More Charlotte Mason Education. "Catherine Levison takes an in-depth journey offering even more ideas for implementing the popular methods of Charlotte Mason into home schooling. In this concise and practical guide, Levison presents the key points of Charlotte Mason's methods as contained in her six-volume series."
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series.
This six-volume set is the complete works of Charlotte Mason. It includes over 2400 pages of the finest material ever written on education, child training and parenting.
Resources for the Unschooling Approach
The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith tells how to use the whole world as your child’s classroom. Fun to read, the book is a compilation of input and advice from many families who are unschooling their children.
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. The story of California goat farmers whose interesting, encouraging, unorthodox methods of home educating their four adopted sons won the boys scholarships to Harvard and Yale. Contains an outline of the course of study they used.
Christian Unschooling "If you are new to homeschooling - BUY THIS BOOK! It will save you years of frustration and confusion. If you are a veteran homeschooler trying to unschool - BUY THIS BOOK! It will comfort you, inspire you, encourage you, and always be at hand when you need a word of wisdom and an optimistic opinion of what you are trying to do for your children! It will thoroughly explain unschooling to you in an easy-to-understand way!"
And of course, you can't study unschooling without reading books by John Holt, the "father" of unschooling. His books are wonderfully thought-provoking and give you a real appreciation for the natural learning ability of your children. Read all of these! How Children Learn, Learning All the Time, and Teach Your Own .
Also highly recommended:
Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School
Resources for the Eclectic Approach
The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood is full of ideas for Christians to home school in a more natural and unstructured way. Mary covers how to teach all of the subjects from elementary ages through high school with an eclectic approach rather than by sticking rigidly to prepackaged curricula.
The Joyful Home Schooler continues Mary Hood’s practical, down-to-earth approach from The Relaxed Home School and shares simple, workable solutions to home schooling in an unstructured way.
Also, see the From Home School to Home Business CD set above. In her sessions, Mary explains how to use a relaxed home school approach for all ages.
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