Substantive Education

March 5, 2011

We should be less concerned with the answers they know, and more concerned about the questions they ask.

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling,Parenting,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 10:25 pm
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Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phillipians 4:8

My greatest fear when we began this homeschooling journey was not that the boys wouldn’t get into college, or even that I would miss some crucial bit of information, (that was inevitable); it was that when they finished high school, they would breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m done.”

Over the years I’d met many frustrated and discontented 20 somethings who felt that completing high school meant they knew all they needed to know. Post high school, many of these kids never read another book, and what passed as intellectual stimulation came in the form of reality TV and video games. In talking with these young adults, it became evident that their world was very small and self centered. Frequently they were struggling with issues of identity and worth, but didn’t know why.  The lessons they had internalized were that school is a waste, reading is a chore,  teachers are uncaring, and history is irrelevant…the school system had failed them and it was not just their education that suffered.

When our minds and spirits are starved of good healthy ‘food’ we don’t function as we were meant to, our growth is stunted and every area of our life suffers. This is not what any of us want, we want our children to live the full life that God created them for. We want them to enjoy life, to excel in what they do, to find satisfaction in relationships, and to contribute to their communities. When we make homeschooling and parenting decisions we need to keep these goals in mind. Proficiency at math and reading are a start, but we also want children who are prepared to take on all the challenges of the next stage of life.

What do you want for your children? How can you help them get there? Philippians 4:8 gives us a beginning point. This verse points out that whatever is true, right, beautiful is about God, and it would benefit us to dwell on these things. As I consider this verse I am struck by how inclusive it is…all that is beautiful is worth studying, not just that which makes a profit. All that is just, true and right should be our focus…not only that which is expedient or has an immediate application.  By providing a ‘diet’ for their minds and spirits of the beautiful, the just, the excellent, we give our children a strong foundation, a good beginning…and instill the desire to continue learning and experiencing all that God has for them.

Caleb during his semester abroad studying literature in the UK

For me, I wanted my children to love art, and to play music. I wanted them to be in awe of the beauty in nature. I wanted them to be curious about past civilizations and engaged with current events. I wanted them to experience other cultures and to appreciate that diversity. I wanted them to have an education that was rich and full, an education that encouraged curiosity and critical thinking. I was less concerned about the answers they knew and more concerned about the questions they asked.

Approaching education this way is both exciting and uncomfortable. It’s exciting because it’s alive; changing us and challenging us. It’s uncomfortable because very little of it is going to come through on some standardized test. It’s hard to measure the ‘educational’ benefits of art, or where enjoyment of a nature walk fits into a science scope and sequence. How does reading a great work of fiction that brings us to both tears and laughter, translate into a grade?

As homeschoolers we have been freed. We are not enslaved to the almighty ‘standardized test’ we do not have to view education in a dry, compartmentalized way. We can focus on the whole child: mind, body, and spirit…and feed them all. What a wonderful opportunity, be sure you don’t waste it.



  1. What an amazing post. If our public sector would have this emphasis on education we would all be better off. Too many schools (and, sadly, parents) focus on tests, grades, and preparing kids for admission to college. The important things are what you articulate: critical thinking, curiosity. I would ass the ability to stay focused on one topic that interests them for a sustained period of time. They don’t (or can’t) do that in public schools. Thanks you!

    Comment by Jose M. Blanco — March 5, 2011 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much, your comments mean a lot and I totally agree with the idea of staying focused on one topic for a period of time. Praying our public schools find a way to deal with all the problems currently facing them.

      Comment by kbagdanov — March 6, 2011 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  2. Such a wonderful set of ideas, makes me wish I had attended the School of Kelly.

    Comment by John Nessen — March 6, 2011 @ 12:53 am | Reply

    • Thanks Dad, Love you.

      Comment by kbagdanov — March 6, 2011 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  3. Remind me to share with you this wonderful poem by Paul Willis called “Assessment”…

    Comment by Kristin — March 7, 2011 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

    • Hey Kristin, could you share with me that poem by Paul Willis called “Assessment”

      Comment by kbagdanov — March 7, 2011 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

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