Tuesday, August 17, 2010


1 a: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body

2 a: the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual

Charlotte Mason wrote that Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. I don't know enough about home schooling philosophies to know whether Charlotte Mason and I are kindred spirits.  I am more concerned with finding the right path for A and I than I am in finding someone else's path to follow.  That being said, I have enjoyed thinking about how atmosphere and discipline relate to education.  And I can say up front that education as a life is a concept that resonates immediately with me.  If life is not for learning, why live it?  Even the primary definition of life echoes this - dead people, dead things can't learn.  That's one criteria that separates them from live beings.  And I would argue that the experiences that make up the existence of an individual are worthless if they aren't teaching the individual something.

Even before starting to home school a few days ago, long before I considered it as a method for educating my daughter, I thought of education as life and life as education.  I can remember A as a baby, tucked in the back seat of the car in her infant carrier.  We drove past something of interest and I said to J, "I can't wait until she's old enough for me to show things like that to her."  I have no recollection of what it was that day that I wanted to share with my tiny daughter, but I remember the ache with great precision.  The ache to show her the beautiful things of life, the ache to see the things she sees and hear about them, the ache to teach her and learn from her.  That's what life is all about. 

That day is long past.  I no longer have a child in a car seat and even little K will move out of a booster in a few years.  But I still ache to teach them things - especially to share the most beautiful things I've learned with them.  While I was writing this post, A asked me when she can read The Book Thief.  I'm in no hurry to let her read this book.  Not because she can't understand it.  She could.  Not because the writing is too hard for her.  It isn't.  I don't want her to read it yet because I don't think she's emotionally ready.  And reading a great book too early mutes its impact on your life.  So the challenge in making education a part of our life doesn't lie in finding ways to teach things.  There are more opportunities to teach things than I have the energy to act upon.  The key lies in teaching the right things at the right moments.  And this often looks very different at home than it does at school.

I don't have a list of skills or parameters that I want A to have reached by the end of the year.  What I do have is a desire to capture teachable moments - whether they are in the kitchen, cutting an onion, mixing honey mustard and prepping a chicken to roast, or in the car, discussing how the history we've studied so far relates to our lives today.  Because if we aren't learning together, educating each other, we're not really living.  That's not just true during this year of home schooling with A, but with each of my daughters and always.

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