Learning Happens Organically
Does anyone in your body of believers have children going through public school? Is everyone being home-schooled?
We have a hundred or more children at home. We’ve had children go to public schools on occasion for a year or two maybe, for reasons associated with their character, to help them learn that kind of lesson. But at home, they not only get ten times better education, but their characters are also dealt with. They don’t get all the poison from the world system. They’re not being discipled by their peers, but they’re being discipled by their parents and other adults who love them.
We’ve had some children who have gone on to universities and excelled. And they’ve extraordinarily excelled, not just barely excelled. It’s because all the parents with their different occupations, experiences, and expertise are involved with the children. It’s not, “I have my children and I try to teach them everything from A to Z.” Who could do that, right?
Oh, you have to do that, right? (talking to a schoolteacher in the room) Most of us aren’t that good. (Laughter)
Yeah, me neither. :)
So all the wives are basically at home with their children?
Yeah, but some of the women work in certain situations like accounting and so on for the companies of brothers. They might swap around children and still have the flexibility to teach their children at other times. They’ll teach accounting or marketing to a group of children in the evening, and others will teach the children other things during the day. We’re not limited by the number of school hours. We’re not limited by Monday through Friday the way the public schools are because every day is the same, as Paul said. They’re always learning.
So maybe a group of brothers, some of them engineers, pull several young men aside and teach them math a couple of evenings and on a Saturday. It’s around the clock, around the calendar year—“As you rise up, as you sit down, as you walk along the way” (Deut. 6:7). The end result is that without any formal curriculum…
You don’t have a formal curriculum? That was one thing I wanted to ask about.
No, but of the first five that have lived that way since they were born…
They went to university?
They went to university and they got all A’s and a Chancellor’s Award out of 15,000 students. They were first place out of all the students. All of those first five now have their master’s degrees, two in engineering and three more in accounting.
What do the moms teach, do you know? Is it subjects?
Well, if you were going to build that chest over there, you would have to know something about dimensions, woodworking, how the parts fit together, and the thread count on the screws. All sorts of things are involved. That’s just an example though. The mothers aren’t building chests with the children. :)
In everything you do there’s math and science and art. Everybody is teaching the children in a whole-life approach instead of just one “subject” that starts at 9:00 and is over at 10:00 and has homework. The Germans taught us that method in the 1800’s when they taught us how to do factory schools. You start at a certain time, you end at a certain time, the bell rings and you go to the next class. That approach was never the case until the mid 1800’s in Germany. That wasn’t the way people learned in the olden days. We just inherited that.
How do your children learn how to talk? How does that happen? It’s not a subject that you teach. “From now on, starting at 9:00 in the morning I’m going to teach you how to talk. Okay it’s 10:00 now and we’re done learning how to talk for the day.” Do you do that? Of course not. It’s just one of those things that happens organically, just like with spiritual life. Do you teach your children how to know Jesus and have the character of Jesus from 9:00 until 11:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Or is it, “As you rise up, sit down, and walk along the way”?
We’ll use textbooks and things like that as tools, but they don’t limit us, or control our pace, or match the world’s system in that sense. We’re pressing the point home day in and day out, but not with a class where the bell rings.
If you wanted to learn a language as an adult, the best way would be by saturation. Let’s say you wanted to learn Polish. The best way to learn it wouldn’t be from 9 until 10 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The best way would be to go live in Poland. You would learn it because you wouldn’t eat if you didn’t learn. :) You’d get lost and wouldn’t be able to find your way home if you didn’t learn.
That’s basically what we try to do with the children. We try to put them in situations where they can learn as much as they can through saturation rather than through starting and stopping on a stopwatch. It’s just like we teach them about Jesus. It’s not a class; it’s a way of life.
Are there any criteria to enter the universities?
There are entrance exams like the SAT and the ACT. Many universities also want a high-school diploma, but getting that is similar to passing the entrance exam for college. You take a graduation test and if you pass then you’ve graduated. Something like a full third of the American children that go to the public schools can’t pass that test once they’ve graduated because the factory schools aren’t very effective at communicating.
What we’re talking about is really not hard, if you spend time with your children looking them in the eye, and if other adults are involved every day in their lives too. Somehow or another they get it.
Twenty years ago when we started doing it there was no such thing as home-schooling. At least, we’d never heard of it. We went to Joshua’s first parent-teacher meeting in the public school when he was in the first grade. We just wanted to talk with the teacher along with all of the other parents. First, we saw some really nasty stuff on the bulletin board. Then, we talked to the teacher, and she was clearly going to have a bad influence on Josh. So, we just walked out of the parent-teacher meeting and never went back. Then we just figured it out as we went along—and a hundred children later, there are no regrets.
I think lots of people use curriculums.
A curriculum can be a bit of a roadmap to let you know where you have to go. It can give you some kind of pace and ideas of topics to cover. It can be a bit of a roadmap, but there’s got to be liberty if you really want to burrow into their level of understanding.
One thing I think most of our children do pretty well is that they’ve learned how to think. And it does well for them in the workplace once they’ve completed their formal education. They’ve learned how to think, not just repeat information like little parrots. That’s basically how the factory school system in the United States works. They give the information, you memorize it, and you give it back to them on a test. Then you go on.
It’s important to take the time to help a child think about why a question is important and how it might apply in other situations. They can learn how to handle questions that they’ve never had the direct “answer” to, because you’ve given them the tools of how to think it through. They know how to put things together that you’ve taught them and combine them into something you’ve never discussed before.
They’re doing that in the workplace very effectively now, and they stand apart immediately because they ask questions. The point is that if we teach our children how to think, they’ll excel for the rest of their lives.
That’s a Kingdom principle too. How were we able to have that conversation in the other room earlier? It’s because we’ve all taken a chance about asking things like, “What is Church?” And, “What do you do with a Christian after they’re saved? Is that the end of the story? Does the Bible teach that you have them convert to Jesus and say, ‘Just read your Bible’ and walk away from them?” Then later maybe you realize, “Oh yeah, you can’t read.”
So, we’ve learned how to think more deeply. You read Scriptures and you wrestle through things, and ask questions that people aren’t asking. That applies to the rest of life too. We’ve got to learn how to ask questions and think about things rather than just repeat what everybody else is doing. It’s just a healthy way to live. For educational purposes and job purposes and Jesus’ purposes—it’s just the right way to live.
(Quiet for a few seconds)
You do play that guitar a little bit don’t you? :) (to someone playing quietly on a guitar)
I was just plucking around…
I was wondering if you were just keeping your lap warm :)
I need to keep busy with something all the time. (chuckles)