I have been thinking about my homeschooling philosophy recently and what my goals are in all of this. I mean, I definitely want my kids to be well-educated, deep-thinkers, avid-readers, self-learners, and high-achievers. Of course, I want them to know the Lord, and to walk deeply and strongly with Him. I guess that should go without saying. However, as I reflected on this more, I realized that there are other goals I have in mind that would most certainly exceed academic achievement. For example, I want my children to be able to respond to conflict in a godly manner. I want them to learn to turn the other cheek, that a soft answer turns away wrath, that love covers a multitude of sins. I want them to learn to be slow to become angry, slow to speak and quick to listen. I want them to be well-spoken, not necessarily eloquent, but that they have a timely word for a friend who is hurting or a diplomatic word in a time of personal conflict.
However, what I realized is that one of my top goals in this adventure that we call homeschooling is that my children are best friends with one another (putting all of the above into practice with each other!). That is why I believe that the hours my children spend playing together are priceless because they are cementing the bond of a lifetime. Just as we build precept upon precept in our learning of English grammar or mathematical concepts, we build our relationships little by little with shared experiences, investing in a bank of memories that will last for a lifetime. This bank will never go bankrupt.
My brother and I, growing up, were friends, but we also had our own lives. We attended public school and were separated by our grade for the majority of every day of our childhoods. We had our own friends. I didn't necessarily know who his friends were or what he was learning. Eventually, this transferred to our home with both of us preferring our "own" friends to the company of one another. This is "normal" you may say. But, is it? Or have we just accepted the cultural belief that brothers and sisters should bicker and grate on one another's nerves? Is this how God wants it to be? Doesn't he sovereignly and lovingly craft each family? These relationships were meant to last a lifetime, not for a season. We are not to grow up in the same house living parallel and separate lives! The majority of our experiences and memories SHOULD be shared!
My children spend almost all of their time together. They long to play with one another all through the morning hours of school. I have to confess, I have often become frustrated with their desire to play and their lack of enthusiasm for the subject placed before them at times. However, I have to check myself now. I have to ask myself, "Isn't this JUST as important as math, reading, and spelling? Aren't the hours they spend playing so valuable because they are investing in relationships that will last for eternity? I have to nurture these friendships NOW if I want them to continue as adults. I believe that these friendships don't just happen because children are raised in the same family. No, I believe we have to be proactive as parents in fostering these relationships, teaching our children the value of their siblings. We have to teach our children to love, to submit, to share, to think of others more highly than themselves. This does not come naturally to the sinful nature. It doesn't come natural to me! How much less to children? What I am trying to say is that just because my children are together all day everyday does NOT mean they will be best friends. We must INTENTIONALLY teach them to be best friends. Yes, I think it does begin with spending a great deal of time together, but it is fostered in so many ways. For example, in order to teach our children the importance of their siblings, we do things as a family. Thus, the whole family goes to Jonas' baseball games to cheer their brother on. We often have play-dates with other families as a family. If the family cannot do it together, we often don't do it! In addition, I can often be heard saying, "Our play needs to be in such a way that everyone is included." As a result, my children have learned to come up with elaborate pretend-play scenarios in order that Jonas can be the soldier and Anna can ride a horse, Katria is a princess and Haven is someone's baby and they make it work: FOR HOURS!
So, I have had to rethink again my definition of school and what is truly important. My children are learning all the time. Our lives are a classroom, every fight a learning opportunity, a chance to train them to walk in righteousness, to respond in godly ways. Conflict is like a science experiment--hands-on learning, putting Biblical principles into action! Our home is a laboratory!
So, I guess "play" will be another subject added to our school day--just don't tell the kids that I consider it school! SSHHHH! ;)
In Christ, Laura