New Education? Is there yet another form of cramming useless information into student’s heads? No.
This is simply new to me. My old education was to study for tests, learn to spell the words, walk in a line, and get the grade — all of which are good things. But they aren’t great things. And I want greatness for myself, for my children, for my community.
I’m not bashing schools here, but once a family has seen the power of good homeschooling, public or even private schools can’t compete. But therein lies the challenge: implementing a homeschooling plan to have that sustaining power for excellence.
It’s up to me to find that power, to meet that challenge, and then to instill a desire in my children to join me on this journey of self-education.
That is the new education: Self-Education.
I’m certain that when a person reads that term — Self-Education — a variety of definitions surface. For me and mine, it means reading as much as possible. It means associating with people who are doing the same (not easy to find, by the way). Self-Education means having clear goals of where I want to go and then making a map backward to where I am. My task at that point is simple — follow the map.
I don’t remember where I read it, but someone who has already reached the heights of Self-Education asked several poignant questions:
When did your formal education stop?
Was it at your high school graduation? College Graduation?
Do you continue to study your career, your hobby, people skills?
Or did you stop learning when you completed your formal education?
I was a embarrassed. While I was a Language Arts teacher for four short years, I had pretty much stopped learning. I read the books my students read, prepared lesson plans, and made it to the end of each school day. I didn’t do much of anything to enhance my own education. I read all about what to expect when I was expecting, but to be honest, I looked at the pictures and read a few paragraphs each week. I never read a book on parenting when my daughters were little. When I started writing, I did just that…just started writing. It wasn’t until I hit a wall with my story (which was a ridiculous story!) that I finally admitted that I didn’t know everything and turned to the experts.
As we launched our homeschooling adventure, I read the books my children read. I didn’t do any in-depth research on curriculum because I had already taught school, had two degrees in education, and experience. With that mindset, we began homeschooling and my self-education truly began.
I realized how little I knew and how much I had learned that wasn’t true in a homeschooling environment (i.e. classroom management is a semester-long class to help teachers deal with transitions, discipline, and herding children through the school and throughout the day without losing anyone).
What I slowly realized was that, as a homeschooling parent, I needed lesson plans that included what was for lunch and dinner. The first vocabulary and spelling lists I made for my new readers were grocery lists. We sorted laundry by color. Then we counted how many items of clothing would fit in the wash machine. That’s math, right? We read books all the time. I lost my voice so often in those first years of homeschooling from all the reading aloud!
My old education didn’t prepare me for adulthood. There was a point in my early thirties when I realized that most of my big days (graduation, births of children, great accomplishments) were likely behind me. There was nothing to strive for, no brass ring in my grasp. I was on a merry-go-round and I wanted off.
Seeking wisdom, I turned to books. Novels. Through the stories, I enjoyed the vicarious quest and felt a little fulfillment, but that invigorating thrill of adventure ended at the last page. I knew I needed something more. My husband and I made five- and ten-year goals and started working toward them. Twelve years later, we have accomplished everything on those lists. It was time for something new.
My answer: Self-Education. I would study. I would read difficult books. I would apply the principles of valid self-help books (I hate that term, but by using it, you know what I mean) and see if I could mentor my children through high school.
The kid’s bookshelf. They have read far more than I have.
Before starting, I knew that I would need some kind of a report card or score board to track my progress, to keep me accountable, to start to recognize a pattern in my reading. I didn’t do anything fancy. Just bought a new journal to write a response to everything I read. Each month, I make a list of 4-5 books that I plan on reading. Usually, I will include a book about education, a people-skills book, a book about writing, a book that has been recommended to me by a friend, and a novel. I save the novel for last. If I don’t read the first four books before the end of the month, I don’t allow myself to read the novel. If, by the end of the month I’ve read all the books, I give myself the freedom to read another novel.
I’ve been actively working through this self-education project for over a year – June 1st 2015 was my first anniversary. I am a better wife (The Five Love Languages) and a better parent (Personality Plus). World history is connecting the dots in my head as to where our country was and where it seems to be heading (1776, The Constitution of the United States, The Federalist Papers, the writings of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain). I’m a better friend, daughter, and sister because I’m learning about people and how to more effectively communicate. I learned the most in that area from the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book I think is poorly named. I avoided reading it for years because I don’t want to win friends, I want to be a good friend. I don’t want to influence people, I hope to inspire them. So, if you, like me, judged that book based on the title, don’t. It should really be titled: How to be a Friend and a Champion for Others.
My mentors in this project have encouraged me beautifully, telling me that they see huge improvements in a variety of areas. But I haven’t been told that by people who I knew before I started. I’m not seeking approval, but finding joy in the fact that any truly remarkable changes that I can make in and for myself all have to start within. Eventually, when I’ve done the work consistently and over time, the results will start to be obvious.