When the Lord showed us that it was our responsibility to educate our own children, we realized that we would need a plan. At that point in our lives our educational plan only encompassed a few expansive ideas, but once we got underway, the plan fleshed out into very specific and achievable goals. At first we only knew how we had been educated - both good and bad. So learning to read was the obvious first obstacle. Of course, that is not an education plan, but it is a good first step.
So we began our search for a reading program. We quickly discovered that all reading methods are not alike. This lesson proved true in every field of study. Once we decided on phonics with some sight-reading, we were on our way. This method has been good for us, encompassing many pre-reading and reading steps that have led each child in turn to not only read but love to read. So the education of the parents, as teachers, was under way. Oh yes, the children were learning too.
We quickly decided that our educational plan would embrace many more things than we had experienced in school. We had found that our education had not really prepared us for life. It would be different for our children. So the first schedules began to appear. You may know these as 'chore charts' - otherwise dubbed 'service opportunities charts'. While young, our children learned all the skills needed to keep the house clean and tidy. We also spent a lot of time reading - Mom reading to the children that is. "We also helped Dad do his work
As the children began to mature and read we saw a need for yet another type of schedule. This one divided our day into half hour units of time. At first all chores and classes could easily be scheduled into the morning hours, leaving the afternoons for play, helping Mom and helping Dad. This relaxed schedule also quite easily accommodated the ever increasing number of little ones God added to our lives.
By the time our fifth child was born, we were struggling in many ways - lack of sleep, multiple age demands, not enough income... At this point the Lord helped us get serious about planning and goal setting. Our philosophy of education had been growing and expanding with both our children and our experience. Now we made some farsighted decisions that have forever changed our lives - we believe, for good.
The unit study with Mom reading had worked well when all the kids were little, but now we needed something more to give structure to the many diverse activities of the children. We decided to use a one-room schoolhouse method of education. Of course it was not typical of that old system for we were a family, but we borrowed some ideas that have helped us through the years. Those which relate to scheduling include: 1) older and younger age (ability) divisions for specific courses. For example, we had basic science for younger children and biology for older. 2) older children teach younger siblings, like phonics. 3) systematic teaching. Math is a good example.
With this plan, each child as well as the teacher(s) have their own schedule. A parent taught group classes while another family member took responsibility for the younger ones. So, while I taught the two oldest, the third played with the little one (fourth) and the baby (fifth) took a nap. Also, while the older three did an assignment, I nursed the baby and read to the little one. We still tried to get most of the heavy teaching done in the morning, but now we added classes in the evening so Daddy could teach too. Later we compressed our school year and did classes all day and evening for a shorter period of the year. This enables us to add vocational training into other seasons of the year. A well rounded education is not all academic.
Within a year or two we saw a real need for setting goals with the children. Since they worked independently on several classes, they needed to see how everything fit together and progressed forward. So we worked with the children to set specific attainable goals for each class. These could be reviewed often to help us all keep on track. As they get older they do this themselves.
So over time we had developed
1) a big picture set of goals for the children's basic education
2) a schedule of chores and classes for each child and parent
3) yearly goals for each class.
The final step involved goals for each child as they become a young adult (12). These are revised yearly as their 'bent' and dreams became obvious. First they planned their secondary education and then their vocational education. These ran together as they worked and studied at different times of the year.
What goal setting means to me.
From a very early age we were incorporated in the planning process. I enjoyed it. Once we had goals, Mom would coordinate all of our group classes on our schedules, - quite a chore for a family our size. We depend on these schedules every day, so they are extremely valuable. Certainly at first I wasn't much assistance. As we grew older we were each given more of the process. Lacking an understanding of the value of goals I didn't give them much thought after we made our schedules. Still they gave me some structure for my spare time. They weren't just for school either. I made goals for things that interested me personally. Now, as I am responsible for my own time, I have a far greater appreciation for the disciplines of goals setting and planning a scheduling. It is never too early to start instilling in children both personal responsibility for how they use their time, as well as habits of time management.
Overall our schedules and goals have given structure without removing flexibility. We feel they have produced a fine education, which has not only prepared them to work, but also to lead, to live and to die.
P.S. Did we make mistakes? Of course, we did, but the process is a part of the goal. How we educate and the day to day outworking of education in the context of life is part of the goal. It's not just what we do and become in the end but what we are day by day while in the processs. How we handle the failures is much of the education. Some years I made multiple schedules before I came up with one that really worked. Some years we did not meet our goals at all - but we did learn a great deal from what God brought into our lives.
We still keep a schedule and set goals. Sometimes we succeed at what we planned, and sometimes we fail. We seek God's direction, plan, and move forward, but our desire is to always remember: "Man plans his ways, but the Lord brings it to pass." It's mine to plan. The results are His.
Copyright © 2006 The Stover Family - all rights reserved.