One of the purposes of my blog is to encourage intentional parenting. I’m hoping to do regular reviews of resources that are helpful to me on my journey of purposeful mothering and just might be useful for you as well! I knew as soon as I was several chapters into Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson that it was a book I wanted to tell you about.
First, let me say that the book is geared towards those considering or planning on homeschooling. Probably 40% or so of the book was dedicated to homechooling specifics. I’m not going to review that part of the book. But before they delved into the nitty gritty of homeschooling, the Clarksons spent quite a bit of time laying out principles of Biblical education that can apply to any family, regardless of school choices. That’s the part I’ll talk about in this review because that’s the part I found, well, almost revolutionary to my child raising ideology! So let’s start:
What is my educational philosophy? That’s a question I ask myself often, and to which I haven’t had any well-formulated ideas or answers. I know I need to train my children in Biblical principles (hence the Proverbs Project), but beyond that I’ve been a bit clueless. The Clarksons first point out that our children’s education is primarily our responsiblity. Whether our children attend public school, private school or homeschool, we need to intentionally guide and undergird the learning process.
After establishing the parent’s Biblical mandate to oversee their child’s education, the Clarksons then give a very succinct definition of educational success: A child that knows how to learn and loves to learn is successfully educated. Isn’t that great? As the authors point out, there is no way we can expect our children to know everything there is to know. But we can insure that they know how to self-educate and that they love to pursue learning.
The Whole Heart
Then the Clarksons take it a step further. Our responsibility to our children is to disciple them, to affect not just their minds but also their hearts. They focus on several key areas of training:
- Training of habits – Habits are the rails on which our lives move, to paraphrase Charlotte Mason a bit. The Clarksons emphasize strongly the importance of habit training. When we train our children to be habitually truthful, neat, diligent and self-controlled, we’ve given them an incredibly important tool for a successful life.
- Training of appetites – This was an area I hadn’t thought much about. The authors encourage building in our children a desire for high quality music, literature and art. Teaching our kids to view the world’s media through discriminating eyes and to have standards of excellence to compare things to will protect them from a lot of trash and wasted time. I was challenged to start viewing the media I expose my kids to through the lens of the Biblical exhortation to think on “…whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely…if anything is excellent and worthy of praise…”
- Training in language – Our kids may be geniuses, but if they can’t communicate their knowledge to others then that mental acumen loses a lot of its value. We need to teach them the fundamentals of persuasive communication and provide them a print-rich environment that is high on reading and low on television.
- Training in creativity – Innovative problem solving is dependent on creativity! We need to push our children to explore, create and solve conundrums. Surround them with toys that encourage thinking and learning…not just one more “Dora the Explorer” doll (and I’m not knocking Dora. She’s popular at our house!)
- Training in reason – How many times have you heard a debate where one side was big on rhetoric and low on logic? We want our children to know how to think! Reason with them, debate with them, teach them the rules of logic. Give them freedom to express ideas and explore those ideas with them. It’s easy to talk at our children. Let’s learn to think with them.
- Training in wisdom – While our kids are preschoolers, we make the rules. We tell them what the Bible says and they usually accept that unquestioningly. But if they never move beyond “taking our word for it”, then they’ll never grow in their faith. I was challenged to teach my kids to search out God’s Word for themselves as they get older. I shouldn’t just impose say, the standard of modesty on my girls. As they enter their teens, have them study the Bible and develop their own “code of dress” (with some parental oversight, of course!)
The Other Side
As with most books, there is usually something I disagree with. In the case of Educating the Wholehearted Child, I was initially turned off by their zeal for homeschooling as an educational choice. I felt like the Clarksons pushed it much too strongly and could make many a reader feel less than for considering other schooling options. A parent CAN be responsible in sending their children to public school. At least, IMHO.
Other than that small caveat, I would definitely recommend this book if, like me, you’re trying to formulate your ideas on education or wondering how to focus your investment in your child. Great read, and very inspiring! I’ve already started to be more intentional about introducing my children to the great composers and having music playing around the house. I’m also researching a beginning art curriculum to help them develop an artsy eye!
If you’ve read the book or are familiar with the Clarksons, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!