Our family has been homeschooling for a little over seven years. We now have four “school aged” children and three others waiting in the wings. So, what gets me out of bed, day after day? Why have we chosen this lifestyle for our family? Many of the previous posts in this blog party have hit on some of our top answers. We, too, want strong family relationships. We want to raise children who have a hunger for knowledge and who are able to be self-directed in their learning. We love the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling offers and the opportunity to tailor what we do to meet the needs and gifts of each of our children. But if I had to pick one overarching reason why we love homeschooling, I guess I’d have to go with the motto that my husband chose for our homeschool:
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom. And with all your getting, get understanding.“
~ Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is developed through the repeated practice of connecting knowledge to circumstance; wisdom is the nexus of truth and experience. Raising children in wisdom is what any parent is called to do. Homeschooling is not required in order to fulfill this role, but in our circumstances, it is definitely the best way for us to have regular life-on-life, side-by-side contact for the development of this skill. In the frenetic pace at which we live our lives today, it takes a great deal of diligence and intentionality to invest in the lifelong pursuit of wisdom. It takes a greater deal of diligence and intentionality to invest in the lifelong shepherding of our children in their pursuit of wisdom. You see, it is possible to gain a great deal of knowledge without any real idea of what to do with that knowledge.
Charles Spurgeon, London pastor in the late 1800’s, said “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.“
Most of us desire to raise our children to an adulthood of good moral character. But if we don’t feel that we have the time to walk alongside them in the repeated practice of application, we may be tempted to take a shortcut. The shortcut to “wisdom” (which isn’t truly a shortcut, but rather a bypass) is to make a one-to-one connection between truth and application. The danger, then, is that our children never fully learn how to make application for themselves. If a truth and an application are inextricably linked, and the application becomes problematic, then our children have only two possible choices: ditch the application, and the truth with it or keep the awkward application for the sake of sticking to the truth. Here’s a simple illustration.
“Be kind! Share your toys!” We all believe in treating others the way we would want to be treated. But is “Share your toys!” the only possible application? Is that the way you, as a grown-up, behave? Do you share your laptop with the toddler? Is your lawnmower or your car community property? In some situations, “be kind” could look like sharing. In other situations, “be kind” could look like keeping that special toy in your bedroom while playmates are over. And, when your child gets older, “be kind” could also look like your child explaining to a friend that his history of not returning things that are lent makes her hesitant to lend again. When “share” isn’t really a realistic solution, will your child have to ditch “be kind” in order to set healthy boundaries?
We often find ourselves in this A+B=C method of character training because when children are little, it most often does fall to us to make application for our children. “We should make wise use of our resources. Therefore, the baby may not pour the milk.” “We must value life. Therefore, you may not go into the road unless you are holding my hand.” However, as early as possible, we need to help our children to see that the link between the principle and the application is not an unbreakable one. In fact,we must train them to identify where the breaking point is so that they can learn not only to take knowledge and apply it to circumstances but to know how to skillfully separate one application and replace it with another, while doing minimal damage to their grasp of truth.
This is a tricky process. Applying truth to circumstances is a messy business and one that is best learned in a hands-on fashion with a tender counselor near at hand. They will fall, they will fail and so will we. And we will dialogue about it along the way in our mutual pursuit of wisdom. Life experience and the application of truth to it is not a process that can be rushed. It comes gradually. And it is definitely best fostered in community. As St. Augustine said,
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.“