What’s In Your Classroom?
The Three Essential Ingredients for a High School at Home
“Homeschooling is a team sport. Our goal is not to launch our children as individuals, but to unify a family that can face the challenges and rewards of life as a team” (Leigh Bortins, The Conversation, 10).
If there ever was a website dedicated to making me feel inadequate, it has to be Pinterest. Part of me loves it; most of me hates it. Yes, it is great to see all the creative ideas, doodads you can make out of old Mason jars, or how to style your home in a snazzier way. But mostly it launches me into a big comparison pit that makes me feel bad about myself in every aspect.
In many ways, the high school years feel like a Pinterest board has come to life in my ordinary world. There are so many choices, ideas, curriculum options, trips, enrichment camps, clubs, online classes, testing plans, extracurricular activities, and volunteer opportunities for high school. Just like Pinterest, the numerous options can leave me completely overwhelmed and I quickly feel inadequate about it all.
In Leigh Bortins’ newest book, The Conversation, she begins chapter one by laying out the three most essential ingredients to a high school classroom at home: Authority, Habits, and Content. Her insight into the simplicity and focus for the high school years encourages thinking about the big ideas first. This grounding lays the foundation for aligning our hearts and minds to what is essential, before anything else is added to our high school classroom.
Authority – Who’s In Charge Here?
“Authority doesn’t mean, ‘my way or the highway.’ It means that a high school student is mature enough to honor his parent’s wishes” (The Conversation, 10).
It surprised me that this was the first key ingredient for high school at home. But when you think about it, if your relationship with your child in terms of respect is not right, nothing else matters. In chapter one, the underscoring message is finding confidence in your parenting and in your approach to homeschooling. This means setting the example that you are not afraid to pursue hard things together. I think too, the flipside of the message is that our kids need to trust that we know what we are doing. By developing that trust and authority first, it allows the essential aspects like content and plans to flow from their proper place.
Habits – What Are You Doing Daily?
“As confident parents teach their children to honor their authority, they must also help their students develop the habits that promote learning for a lifetime” (The Conversation, 19).
We are so fortunate as homeschoolers not to think of school as set number of hours and days for learning. We can cast a vision that learning is a lifetime pursuit. We walk that out for our children by learning alongside them. We create an ecosystem of learning by making it a lifestyle. Through homeschooling, I have come to understand that the little, tiny things that we do most every day are the ones that yield the most fruit. It is the simple habits poured daily into our lives that give it the rhythm and texture of time well spent. Not that every day will be perfect, but by building in regular habits, we are laying out a lifestyle of learning that will live beyond the homeschooling years.
Content – What Does Your Feast of Ideas Look Like?
“Many parents are concerned that if they homeschool through high school they must learn everything they want to teach their students. Instead, think of yourselves as the managing director who helps to provide resources as needed, lend an ear for discussion and challenge your student when he is making errors. As a parent, you simply need to protect the time your student needs for his pursuits and help your student stick to the task at hand” (The Conversation, 29).
For me, the daunting content of the high school years is my big, hairy monster. Yet, it is my redemption experience too. I was terrible in algebra in high school and I am finding it a joy to go back through it with my son. Leigh Bortins reminds us that we are not required to learn and master every subject, we only have to be willing coaches and advisors. The gift of a classical education reassures us that we can break apart any difficult subject by the grammar, dialectic and rhetoric aspects. Also, that we do not have to do it alone. Through community in Classical Conversations, we can tap into the wisdom of other veteran families. We can enlist the support of encouraging tutors, mentors, online resources, great books, field trips and other hands-on experiences. Our role is to lay out a rich feast of ideas that we can savor and take in together day by day.
The Big Three, Plus One
Thinking about high school at home with these three big ideas helps me feel grounded in my approach. I no longer have to think about a zillion different things; I just have to think about three big ideas, plus one. I have to keep my eyes on our Creator to continue to direct my path and my days. When I feel like I am struggling or our school day gets derailed by unexpected disruptions, I have to remember that God is still in charge. He reminds me that I can do all things, even Latin and algebra. By leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work, I know the learning starts and ends with Him. I simply need to lay out the feast.
Read Along in The Conversation
Read the Introduction and Chapter One
- What do you think is essential for homeschooling through high school?
- What is your perspective on the three essential ingredients of Authority, Habits, and Content?
- Which of the three do you think your family does well? Which of the three would you like to improve this year?
- What’s the best advice you have received about homeschooling through high school?
- There is a famous quote by Henry Blackaby that says, “Once you know where He is working, you can adjust your life to join Him.” Where do you see God at work in your family?