Inspired by Exposing the Seven Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers by Reb Bradley
In going through my seminary experience, I was required to take a class called Principles and Approaches to Bible Teaching. I think this class ought to be mandatory for everyone. We covered the various learning styles and how to effectively connect the material being taught with the variety of learning abilities. We also covered the different teaching styles and the challenges and pitfalls of not being aware of how these two factors – teaching and learning styles – can work with or against each other. It was such an enlightening course!
At the time I was taking the class, we were in our third or fourth year of homeschooling our son. To say the least things were a little challenging, and we were beginning to think that we were doing him a disservice. I thought I would bring my two textbooks home, one on teaching styles and the learning styles text, and see if we could find a way to make this work. My wife eagerly dug into them. I really didn’t even need to coach her, but she was gracious and let me anyway. Together we began to discover that, both of us being products of the public school system, we only knew one way to teach. One reason we started homeschooling was because the school system would ignore our son’s natural learning style and try to force him into a “one-size” mold, and here we were essentially doing the same thing!
We had been trying different curricula, trying to create a more stimulating environment through posters and furniture arrangements, and experimenting with different scheduling patterns, but nothing was working. It was such a relief to discover that our son didn’t have a learning disability (a phrase we hate); it was that his learning ability was different than what we were teaching to. If anything, we had a teaching disability. We decided we needed to re-train ourselves to teach him to his learning style. This wasn’t a magic fix-all, and it wasn’t easy, but it made a remarkable difference in how each school day went.
What we were missing was the encouragement found in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This verse does not say that if you raise your child in church he will never abandon his faith. It is saying that we need to be a student of our student and prayerfully identify who and how God has made them to be. We need to teach and train our children according to their strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities. When we create a healthy and effective learning environment based on who our children are – as opposed to whom we expect them to be, or who we want them to be – they will become the man or woman that God intended them to be.
Here is the bottom line: Curriculum, formulas, and trends are tools to teach your children. Books, videos, and worksheets do not teach your children; you do. If you can teach your child to read, write, and study or research, the world is open to them. What really counts is the character they will develop while under your care, intangibles that are not covered in any book (except the Bible of course). As Reb Bradley states in his article Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers, “Trust in formulas is really dependence upon ourselves to carry out a procedure correctly. . . . God doesn’t want us to trust in principles, methods, or formulas, no matter how “biblical” they seem. God wants us to trust in HIM!”
We want control, particularly when it comes to our children. If we can forge our kids through home education into the image of . . . well, what we expect they should look like then we call that success and derive a sense of worth and satisfaction from the product. When the child resists our efforts to force them into a mold of our own design, we call it rebellion. You shall determine that God, not trends, formulas, and methods will shape and guide your children and your homeschool experience. To take charge yourself with no consideration for what God is already doing in your child’s life, or for what is actually best for your child, would indicate that it is you, not your child, that is in a state of rebellion.
My son graduated this year. He looks only a little bit like what I expected. His strengths are not my strengths and concepts I was really hoping he would grasp seem less than concrete in his mind. The young man is almost too smart for his own good and he has a clearer picture of where to go from here than he did last year. He loves the Lord and doesn’t leave a lot of room for compromise in most areas of his life. He is still growing in his faith, and he is still learning about life and his place in it. I am confident that he is becoming the man God has created him to be. He doesn’t always like what his mother and I have to tell him or our answers to his questions, but he trusts beyond a doubt that we genuinely want what is best for him. In spite of our mistakes, we are blessed and have learned a great deal ourselves, which has benefited our daughter in her homeschool experience. I pray you will be able to say the same.
Catch up on the series by reading The Ten Commandments of Homeschooling – Part 4 of 10, or start at the very beginning!
Learn more about the author, Pastor Michael Hayward, at The Economy of the Soul