Perspective Shift: The Art and Science of an Education

Education cannot make a person into something; it can only provide space for a person to discover who they are. Being fully human is not derived from doing things the way that someone or something has told us to, but by being who we are, the person we were born to be”.

Life Learning Magazine

There’s an art and science in medicine, I’ve been told. If one could type symptoms into the Google bar and spit out a diagnosis, would medical doctors be required? There’s a certain experience and constant exposure that surrounds the assessment and diagnoses in medicine that can’t be captured in the Google bar.

Teresa Wiedrick, author of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

There is an art and science in the practice of medicine.

The same is true for the idea of an education.

We could try to jam a bunch of facts into the minds of our children and hope they spit out the requested knowledge later.

But I believe that education would merely be judged inadequate, adequate, above average, or excellent.

What value is that?

Isn’t an education more than just cramming knowledge bits into our brains?

At least once a week, I participate in this conversation with a random stranger:

So you homeschool?

Yup. Smile. (I’ve learned not to explain my choice, nor defend it.)

So there is a government curriculum you follow?

Nope, we’re independent.


The curious bystander wonders how I could enact an education without the efforts of a governmental school system.

Where do I find curriculum? (Um, it’s everywhere: online, bookstores, conferences).

How do you do math?

Do the kids just hang out in pajamas and use their screens all day? (Roll my eyes, OF COURSE we’re in pjs all day, ha, we’re homeschoolers, but no to the screens in my house).

Do you spend more time than a schooled kid on academics, or you can do it faster, right?

I hear kids are smarter than regular kids. (Some kids. But what does that matter anyway? We have the kids we were given).

Are you a trained schoolteacher? (No. I got my Bachelor of Science in Nursing married to a medical doctor: does that make you feel better?)

Can your kids read? Are they geniuses? (Insert my rant about ALL children being geniuses in their own way–roll your eyes if you want, but I actually believe that.)

We do formal studies in certain season.

The kids know the drill, they know the routine, they know the seasonal shifts from project-based unschooling in May-ish and unschooling in summer, and a formal, though child-directed educational approach in the fall-ish.

We do academic STUFF, but what is an education anyways? 

Workbooks and textbooks might be an element to an education but an education is not defined by government determined bookwork. Or shiny test scores. Or cleverly worded lectures. Or trying to fulfill the Core Curriculum or the provincial learning outcomes.

I’m not a classroom teacher teaching twenty-five kids or responsible for a few hundred. I am watching my four children, how they learn, listening to their interests, and trying to provide them with an intentional and tailored educational experience.

When they’re especially interested in a topic, they absorb information quickly. In other words, they LEARN.

Zach stares out the window as I am washing up dishes…”Mom, the sun is refracting a rainbow!” (No kidding, my five year old knows about refracting. Didn’t know he knew that–probably learned from his older sisters, maybe Sid the Science Kid, or maybe retained that from our discussion on qualities of light when he was three but the girls were older.)

They learn differently.

My husband and I both thought we would be helpful resources for our thirteen year old daughter as she practiced her lines for a summer play, “Dr. Doolittle”. She was cast as General Bellows. Turns out, she preferred memorizing them independently. She always preferred/prefers working that way. And she can work like a machine when she sets her mind to something. When production day came, we were mighty surprised at the difficulty of the words in her lines, and she pulled them off perfectly, without our help.

You can still learn the academic game when you need it.

I was energized by a conversation I had with an HSLDA lawyer (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), who was homeschooled himself. He told me he had to learn to play the “academic game” in order to complete his qualifications to become a lawyer, but “learning” is a different animal. He learned to jump through hoops, learned to effectively test, write papers, and participate in group work — all of this formal education is necessary for many professions. But these things don’t necessarily equate to educating a human.

I won’t try to summarize what an education is when John Taylor-Gatto has already done it so succinctly:

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist: it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges: it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing; wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die”.

John Taylor-Gatto

You can get more perspective by taking the free Homeschool Mama Retreat.

Get more encouragement in the book: Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: nurturing the nurturer

Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod