‘In the story of every family is the stuff from which both novels and eventually history is written.’
In her comment on my 3/25 post, “A Bird’s Eye Look at Next Year,” Sally asked a question that I’ve marinated on most of this week. My response to her would have been my next post, but there was such great reading this week in terms of newsletters and articles that I had to share those before I could sit and take a minute to jot down my thoughts. Incidentally, the newsletter where I found the previous article on frustrating your children is a monthly newsletter, so it will be a bit before I post Part II, but I’ll make a special note to watch for it.
The question was, “How do you convince your kids they want to do school your way?” I thought so much about choices and goals, and how one impacts the other. I thought about discipline, a foundational component of our parenting style. I thought about my mom and dad, and what being their youngest daughter meant in terms of what I bring to both my marriage and my parenting skills. I thought about all of this and how to articulate it, especially in light of Rev. Bullen’s words below. I didn’t want to come off as the parent that was disobedient to Ephesians 6:4, although I often am. I didn’t want to ramble, though I might be unsuccessful in that effort. Yet, I wanted to pen my thoughts with my usual candor and honesty, hopefully adding value where I can and seeking prayer where I might fall short. While reading history with the kids today, I saw this quote, and it seemed to tie all of my thoughts together. So I’ll attempt to answer what I thought was a profound question from the point of view of my family history, or at least, one special piece of it.
My father was born in the early 1920’s. Like a number of southern blacks of that era, he was one of a family of sharecroppers. He was forced to drop out of school after about the 3rd grade in order to help work the fields, and so for much of his life, he read very little. He never lost his desire for education, however, and actually took classes to improve his reading and writing skills while in his sixties. He’s gone to heaven now, but I still keep the letters he wrote me in his later years. They weren’t eloquent, but eloquence wasn’t the point; perseverance wrote those letters. I’m sure he agonized over the words just as much as I agonize over mine, and for that reason, I cherish his handiwork.
I also remember my dad’s insistence that we were well educated. He was dogmatic about getting good grades and working hard. I was a music lover as a teenager, and one of my favorite after-school pastimes was to just cut on a radio and perfect my moves. He let me know in no uncertain terms what would happen if I didn’t show equal diligence in having my school work together. From such humble beginnings, he lived to see the reward of his diligence: all five of his girls have Master’s degrees at a minimum. By the way, this is not to belittle my mom’s efforts; she was a registered nurse, a huge accomplishment, particularly in those days, with an equal amount of belief in the power of education. It’s also not to acknowledge my husband’s role here at home. But again, my dad’s story was the focus of this post.
As I thought about Sally’s question, the short answer as to how to convince the kids to school “my way” is that I never gave them a choice. But in these times, that isn’t the politically correct answer, and it sounds harsh though it is, for the most part, the right answer. I brought the same ethos to our school that was instilled in me as long as I can remember. Education was key. Though college wasn’t an end unto itself, it was a must. Learn everything that you can, and always go looking for more. Anything worth having was worth working hard for. And from there we began.
I could go on. How did we transition to a classical education? Primarily because of my own understanding that Charlotte Mason is a classical education, although that didn’t become really obvious to me until the later years of Ambleside’s listing (House of Education) and a comparison to what is currently considered classical. Also, one of my earliest bits of self-education in homeschooling was Paula Penn- Nabrit’s Morning By Morning: How We Homeschooled our African-American Sons to the Ivy League. How did we come to a Great Books education? Because of a statement that stayed with me after reading Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind about the power of getting information from first-hand sources (autobiographies and well-written biographies rather than fictional recreations and posthumous narratives).
I do allow some choices. The oldest rearranged my original schedule to better suit her needs. Our son added to his curriculum based upon what he wanted to study. The youngest rewrites her day all the time. After the oldest expressed an interest in fashion design, I worked almost tirelessly to mold her high school curriculum to include some things that would interest her. But they’ve also learned that, once I’ve made my mind up, complaining is almost useless . As recently as a month ago, she asked me about getting a different science curriculum, one that would give her the same information, but would be “easier.“ Apologia is tough. Even Dr. Wile, the author, states that the curriculum is hard, and that whatever your student is receiving in the high school course would be the equivalent of what he/she would receive in college. But last year when attending University of Texas’ “Explore UT” event, I was astonished to find out that fashion majors take almost as much science as I, an engineering major, took (at least in their program). In fact, after the oldest spoke with the dean, she came home a new creature when it comes to science. So, I reminded her of all of this, and I told her that I wasn’t helping her by watering it down; she’d have to pay now or pay later. End of discussion. I probably could have given her request more consideration. Indeed, she might have more fun with an approach to school that isn’t classical. But, for all the complaining, she’s averaging an A- in physical science. So much for watering it down.
So, how did I convince the kids to school my way? I didn’t. I focused on prayer for the things that seem impossible (and even for those things that do seem possible). I stressed hard work for unbelievable results. I cautioned about anything that comes too easy. In this case, I just continued my family history.