Building “Mental Muscles” for the Years Ahead
Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 5
Oh, I’m loving this chapter! Up until now this book has been primarily challenging me and making me ever so aware of my weaknesses (not in a bad way, but it was making me tired just thinking about how far I am from being the mom I want to be). Chapter 5, however, is right up my alley. When the Clarksons first described their three “biblical priorities for a Christian home” back in Chapter 1 (home nurture, home discipleship, and home education), I knew right away that the third one is my strongest area at this point. So I found this chapter encouraging, like having a minute to take a few deep breaths and enjoy a more level stretch after a tough climb uphill.
The idea of growing and exercising “mental muscles” in the areas of language, appetites, habits, curiosity, creativity, reason, and wisdom is one of the main things that is (or at least can be) different about home education in comparison with a traditional school setting.
“The true test of a child’s education is not what they know at any one time relative to what other children know (or don’t know). It is whether or not the child is growing stronger in all of the most important learning skills–the skills that enable them to acquire knowledge, insight, and ability and to educate themselves independently” (page 75).
The school system has become so focused on testing what children have learned that it neglects to attend to the more important question of whether or not they know how to learn. Rather than have my children be able to regurgitate a bunch of facts on a test, I want them to have a never-quite-satiated hunger for knowledge and to know how to feed that longing by seeking out the answers to the questions in their minds, whether those questions stem from circumstances in which they find themselves, things they stumble across in books, or simply from their own curiosity.
So we try to fill our children’s lives with rich experiences. We surround them with quality books, music, and art. We introduce them to the wonders of God’s world and the marvelous things that people are doing in it. We try to teach them good mental habits so that they will be able to more fully experience and appreciate all these things. We encourage curiosity and help them explore and build their knowledge about the things that interest them.
This is what we think education should look like. I try to stay away from worksheets and busy work (unless it’s something my children are desiring at the moment). I’d much rather read a good book to them and then talk about what we read. I can always tell when we start to slip back into “school” mode, because it starts to feel like work. When we are focused more on their hearts and those “mental muscles,” our school time is just a rich enjoyable learning experience together.
The most important part of all this, however, is not the pleasure we and our children get from learning now. I try to keep the future in mind, remembering that I am preparing my children for a lifetime of learning. I won’t always be by their sides to guide them, so I want to use these years to teach them how to teach themselves.
Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.” I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).