Embassy of Heaven

Education Under Heaven


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Learning without bells and whistles

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

"You look like you're old enough to be in school. What are you doing in this bookstore during school hours?"

Our daughter Brooke, then eight years old, looked up at the stranger and said, "I am in school."

"No, you're not," he retorted, "you're standing next to me looking at books."

"I'm always learning," Brooke replied. "These books are school for me." About that time I came over and the old man said, "Your daughter has taught me a thing or two. I've never thought of school that way."

The old man had been programmed to think that school was only in operation when the bell rang and the children sat down at their desks. There's no bells at our school and our children don't even have desks. But "school" is in session during all their waking hours.

Education is not just filling up a child's brain with facts and figures from a book. Intellectual knowledge is only a small part of education. A more important aspect of learning is gaining practical wisdom and understanding. It involves learning respect for the authority of parents and learning to love and forgive each other. Children form a close bond with their parents and brothers and sisters as they work together and help one another.

Home education does not need to be expensive. We went to a used book store and purchased a set of 1960's Compton's Encyclopedia for under $10. We also picked up some old math and science books. The children have spent many hours on their own looking up various topics of interest in these books. Yesterday our daughter Brooke was curious about volcanoes. She checked out what the encyclopedia said and wanted to learn more. I gave her a book on the eruption of Mount St. Helens. I read parts of it to her and she eagerly finished the rest of the book. The next thing I knew she was writing a short story about a man whose farm was threatened by an erupting volcano. Our younger daughter participated by listening to the Mount St. Helens story and then drawing pictures of erupting volcanoes.

We do not expect them to spend a set amount of time doing math, then science, then spelling each day. That plan is too rigid. We use an integrated approach. If they are studying volcanoes, for instance, they will be attaining reading and science skills. Then if they write a story about volcanoes, they'll be using their spelling and writing skills and maybe their math skills. This is a much more natural way to gain knowledge and the children are more likely to remember what they have learned.

Children often forget what they memorize unless they understand the concept and put it to practical use. To commit facts or concepts to long-term memory, first involves understanding the concept. "What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handled...." (1 John 1:1) is a great way to learn.

Our favorite way to learn history is by reading biographies. To make 16th century history come alive, read a biography of Luther or Tyndale. For hands-on science, we like the Peterson Field Guides. There are guides on birds, shells, butterflies, stars, wildflowers, mammals and insects. Spelling and grammar are corrected as needed when the children write stories. Our reference manual for secretaries contains basic grammar and punctuation pointers in an easy-to-find format.

We usually give our children a set of math problems to solve once or twice a week. They work out of a math book or sometimes we give them practical problems. We use catalogs or supermarket ads and send them on imaginary shopping trips where they buy products using their math skills. We also make a point of having the children use their math skills in practical ways throughout the day. "Our neighbor Joe was born in 1911. How old is he?" Or, we ask them to double a bread recipe and calculate the new amounts.

The most intense instruction is done when they are learning to read. That is a time of closeness between the child and parent. Learning to read will go smoothly if the child is ready to learn the concepts. Both our girls didn't start reading seriously until age 8. Prior to that time, we made up games that familiarized them with the sounds of vowels, consonants and blends. Once they started to actually read, they progressed rapidly. By age 10, our eldest daughter could read almost any adult book. Our children are not forced to be on the same time schedule for learning skills as their peers in the world. When they are ready to learn, we are there to guide them.

We used a simple, basic phonics book to teach them to read. (Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blumenfeld). Watch out for elaborate phonics programs that are expensive and can bewilder a child and overwhelm parents. Once the child begins reading, it is important that they read out loud to someone for about 15 minutes every day. After several months of daily reading out loud, many children learn to love reading and prefer it to movies. Even though our children can read on their own, we still enjoy reading a good book together in the evening.

The easiest way to convey needed information to our children is by including them in practical living experiences or to gather them round and read to them. We also tell them stories about our childhood or other first-hand experiences. Our children love to hear about how their Great Grandfather escaped from England by being a stowaway on board a ship headed for America.

We like doing things together like planting a vegetable garden or making cookies or baking bread. Our children also help on the ministry by collating and stapling and by filling orders. Home educated children have many practical learning experiences that will benefit them when they set up their own household. The closeness and bonding that develops from home education is precious - and is not possible when children are sent away to school. But far more important than all these advantages, is gaining the understanding that Jesus Christ is King. In every thing that we do, we acknowledge Him and seek to do His will. We often refer to The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5 through 7) and the Book of Proverbs because they are full of principles for daily living.

The world has its agenda - to socialize children to fit into the world order. We are different. Through our allegiance to Jesus Christ we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). We train our children, not to be good citizens of the world, but to be faithful citizens of the nation of Heaven.

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