As the sparkling lights of the symphony hall were dimmed, a hush fell over the matinee crowd full of home schooling families. All chattering ceased as the distinguished maestro confidently walked across the stage and silently addressed the musicians with his baton. After many years of diligent practice, the concertmaster was perfectly equipped to escort his audience on a musical journey that would quicken hearts and challenge minds.
Over the years, the maestro had mastered the language of music theory: melody, harmony, and rhythm. The longer he studied music, the more he understood the deeper mysteries of his art. Instruments, movements, and themes became his playground for critical analysis and experimentation. Finally, he learned how to interpret the unique meaning of the music and convey the composer’s intent by coaching the performers in their craft. His mastery of language, thought, and communication within his area of expertise would bless his community today during the concert and for many years to come as he continued to influence his culture with his passion for bringing music to life.
The maestro demonstrates four unusual qualities that we want to foster in our rising homeschoolers:
- He masters the material.
- He disciplines himself.
- He interprets meaning.
- He influences his culture.
Why call these qualities unusual? Because most of today’s preteens and teenagers are captives of an educational system that breeds opposing characteristics and behaviors. Authentic classical Christian home education requires a profound shift in thinking about education. Think about your own public school experience.
Mastery is difficult if you only skim the surface. You went to school for 12 years. You had one textbook for each class. Every textbook had 36 chapters – one chapter for each week of the school year. You read one chapter a week. You were segregated by age into a grade. You studied the same textbook as your peers. That textbook was approved by a committee of certified educators who decided what information every child in your grade needed to know about that particular subject. If you couldn’t keep up with the instruction, you felt like an inadequate failure. If you understood the concepts, you were bored with the repetitive drills. The time restrictions of the calendar dictated the material taught, and there was no leeway for slowing down or accelerating learning.
No time for mastery.
Self-discipline is not necessary if someone tells you what to do. You were assigned a home room, and you had your own desk. You were given a timed schedule. Tardy arrivals and absences were noted on your record. You went where you were told including the bathroom and lunchroom at specific times. You read the chapters, you took the tests, you wrote the essays, and you memorized the material, but for some reason, you can’t remember much of what you learned! You were a good student who did what you were told. Good behavior was dictated not by the heart’s desire, but by the law. As soon as the teacher left the room, chaos broke loose.
No room for learning how to make informed decisions or teach yourself.
Interpretation is impossible when someone else tells you what to think. That committee of certified educators made the important decisions for you about what facts were important in literature, grammar, science, math, social studies, health, home economics, and all the other electives. Surveys, also known as secondary sources, formed the backbone of your education. The highlights of human knowledge were offered. Some might say your education was a mile wide and an inch deep. Education experts decided that you were unable to handle the heavier “classics” (other than a token play by Shakespeare or novel by Dickens). Anyway, we all know that the classics are too difficult for teenagers, right? You were required to parrot back the facts that you’d memorized on multiple choice and true-false exams.
No chance for independent thinking or interpretation of meaning.
Influence is negative when your highest goal is self. Public schools no longer teach history; they teach social studies. At the center of all social studies is the individual. Next comes his family then his community then his world. In public school, motivation for action is centered around the individual and his or her vocation. You worked hard to get good grades to get a good job. In our family, we refer to this dilemma as “me is me to me.” If educators dream of shaping kids who will influence their community, these dreams are limited to the creation of “good” citizens although good is defined in a Greek sense and not necessarily a Biblical sense. References to the God of human history are non existent, and as such, young people fail to understand their purpose. Since one of the responses of faith is sacrificial service to others, a major motivation for blessing the community cannot be discussed in public schools. Service to others requires a redirection of focus from the self to the community.
No incentive to influence or share what you have learned with others.
Thankfully, you have chosen home schooling, a radically different path for your children! You have the luxury of time to help your homeschoolers master the three skills of the trivium. You have the luxury of gradually training them to be independent, self-directed thinkers who are responsible for their own learning. You have the luxury of determining your own homeschool curriculum content so that your kids can learn to grapple with the great ideas of Western Civilization as they read and discuss the classics, selected surveys, and biographies. Finally, you have the extreme privilege of being able to lead your children into an eternal relationship with the Living God, teach them how to use Scripture as the spectacles through which to view the world, and show them how to serve others in a way that influences and blesses. Adopt a counter-cultural stand, and experience the joy of classical Christian home schooling today!