Book shelves stuffed with books line the wall of our living room. A white board and a bulletin board pinned with the alphabet or the latest school projects of my children make up the wall art in our dining area. While these home accents may seem unsightly to the home decorator, they have been purposely placed in our home to allow for an environment of constant learning. In our house we love to learn. However, I have not always been as fond of educational edification as I am now. Through one of my blunders as a teenager, I learned something that drastically changed my perspective and ultimately has affected the lives of my children and family.
In school suspension became my moment of educational insight
In seventh grade I landed myself in “in school suspension.” You may be asking, “what is in school suspension?” I asked the same question when it happened. It’s really just jail at school. Don’t worry about what I did to get there. That’s not the point of the story. The point of the story is that something happened during those two days as I sat in isolation. The only things in the room with me were my school assignments, a number 2 pencil and my thoughts. After 4 hours, all that was left was my thoughts. I had completed all of my school work for the whole week in that first 4 hours. I spent the rest of that day wondering why I went to school for 7 ½ hours each day. The next day was spent reading books of personal interest. The whole second day was spent learning things that mattered to me. That was the best punishment I ever received!
Shortly following that experience, my mom asked me if I was interested in trying a small private school that was starting in my home town. I jumped at the opportunity. To be honest, this new private school was not well organized. We met in the basement of an old building and had little resources. The curriculum was unaccredited, but after my first year, my standardized test scores had improved several grade levels. I had always been behind the rest of my classmates, but for the first time, I was performing above grade level in most subjects. I was exploring personal interests and I was really enjoying my education. After that first year I came to understand the quote by Mark Twain that says, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
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Seeing real change and growth
I only attended the private school for one year, but my parents and I had gained something from that year that I never expected, we discovered, “we were capable of being responsible for our own education.” We could learn because we wanted to learn. Education was not about the resources. It wasn’t about having a new building or even having the latest technology. It was about the engagement that comes as a result of applying the knowledge we were learning to our lives, goals and dreams.
In the years that followed, I gained a love of learning that has followed me the rest of my life. The last couple years of my high school career were spent at home. We created a home school co-op with other families in our area. We learned from each other. I held a part time job and learned on the job skills that made me money and provided real life experience. My experience with home schooling allowed me to start my college education a year early as well.
My experience with home schooling was relatively short but had a huge impact on my life and how I see education. My wife also experienced various methods of education and had a similar positive experience. Because of our experience, we decided that education would be a constant and significant part of our family life and parenting. So from the time our first child was born we decided to make education a priority. We…
- Read books to our children every chance we could
- Explored new adventures, cultures and interesting facts
- Encouraged play, and played with them
- Built things
- Planted a garden in the spring
- Took them skiing in the winter
- Did experiments and explained why things work the way they do
- Included them in our own reading and learning
- Had a weekly family night where they learn and teach principles of values and success
- Answered their questions
- Let them earn and spend their own money
- Encouraged their musical interests, sang and danced with them
- Provided opportunities for them to connect and build friendships with peers and other adults
- & always expressed the sentiment that we are always learning
When it was time to send our son to kindergarten, I realized that we were already home schooling. I realized that some of the greatest education is not formal schooling and does not happen in a classroom. My wife and I researched and discussed methods for adding some formal teaching to help our kids learn the basics including reading, writing and arithmetic. Looking back on our decision to home school our kids, I find that it was motivated primarily by the three TRU principles that can be applied by TRU parents everywhere regardless of where you choose to educate your child. Let’s give our kids a TRU education rather than just giving them “schooling.”
Teach: Encourage your children to follow their passions and research and learn about the things that excite them and they care about. Find ways to show them how certain skills, facts or concepts can be practically applied to their interests and pursuits. Read with or to them whenever you have opportunity to do so. More than anything else, I want my child to first, learn to read, second, ask questions, third, think for himself and fourth, love to learn. If he posses those four educational principles, he will be able to learn whatever he needs to learn in life. I want them to understand that education is not something that is imposed upon you or that others give to you. It is something you do. Schooling only requires showing up. Education requires your participation.
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Relationship: Education should edify both the individual and the relationship. My relationship with my child is more important than an assignment. That does not mean that we do not set boundaries and limits around the accomplishment of school assignments, it simply means that resistance from our kids about education never warrants mean or cruel words, tone of voice or hitting of any kind. Empathize when they are struggling and problem solve with them. Personify love and acceptance.
Upgrade Ourselves: If you don’t understand a concept your child asks you about, read up on it. Learn it together. Seek and learn ways to be a better teacher. Show your children that you continue to learn all the time. Seek continuing education in your chosen field. Seek out something new to learn and master. Last of all, keep reading.
I want my children to..
Regardless of if you choose to educate your child in public school, in a private institution or at home, research has shown that parents who are involved in their children’s educational experience have greater skill and achievement and are better prepared for life on their own. If we can apply the TRU principles of education we are more likely to have children that are capable and skilled, self learners, engaged learners and that love the process of gaining knowledge and applying it in ways that better their life and the world around them. TRU education brings, not only knowledge, but wisdom.
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Question: What is one thing you can do to improve your child’s TRU education?
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