Trust the Child

I was going to share the various educational philosophies on the continuum of homeschooling in somewhat of an order, starting with the most teacher-directed and moving toward the most child-directed. But this post is begging to be written. These words want to be heard, even if only by my own heart. You see, we began our homeschooling journey in a very teacher/parent-directed fashion. Over the years, we have dabbled and immersed ourselves in so many styles of homeschooling that I can confidently say we are completely eclectic in our approach. It varies based on the child and the season of our lives together. But today, I need to share about our homeschooling journey with our oldest. He is, after all, the one who has had to endure our trial and error more than any of the others.

Over the last week, this boy has spent between 6-8 hours a day intensely focused on learning. If you had told me last year or even last month that I would witness this passion and intensity with this child right now, I would not have believed you. In many ways, he has been the most challenging to parent and teach. He has high expectations and does not settle. He has never been one to do something just because I told him he needed to. He has to see value and purpose or he’s not going to give it his time or his best effort. Most people would say, “Well sometimes you just have to do what you have to do whether you like it or not.” And that is true. Sometimes. There are many times when he puts away all of the dishes or folds three loads of laundry or cleans the bathroom. Not because he particularly wants to, but because he sees the value in it but even more importantly, he respects that we, his parents, really appreciate his help. His willingness to help has come in the past year as he has grown and matured. I believe it has come because we have allowed him more freedom and space to be himself.

From the beginning, this boy has had a mind of his own and in the beginning we saw this as a hindrance and not as the gift that it is. So it only makes sense that the homeschooling we did in his early years did not meet his needs. Even though we took his interests into consideration, I heavily directed his learning. Over the years and in and out of educational philosophies, we would find things that worked and many things that didn’t. Reading real, living books, like Charlotte Mason suggested, works. Giving a narration summarizing what we read, doesn’t. Using art as a medium to expression works, but not if it’s required.

What has always worked is giving him time and space to learn on his own terms. This doesn’t mean he’s left alone to figure it all out.. We offer guidance and resources for the projects he has chosen. Right now his day involves computer programming, learning about electronics through on-line science videos, taking pictures and videos and writing about his projects, and doing some traditional math and spelling work because he knows he’ll need it for his future projects, and playing the violin and drums. His days are very full and he’s happy. Our relationship is at its best. This child, with a mind of his own, is honoring his true nature. I like to reframe his education and his approach to life as ‘self-directed’ because that is what he is. He is motivated and immersed in meaningful ,self-directed, self-selected learning.

Our journey has allowed us to trust in ourselves so that we, in turn, could trust in our child. There were days when I felt my confidence in our relaxed approach flicker, but thankfully my trust in my child was greater than my fears. Otherwise I never would have had the privilege of witnessing the beauty of this boy in his element. It took time and patience and many, many ups and downs, and all of these will be put to the test in the years to come, but I will continue to trust.