Book of the Month
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie, Classical Academic Press, 2015, $12.95
This gem of a book is full of inspiration, as well as practical advice. Although intended for an audience of Christian homeschoolers, Sarah Mackenzie’s guidance would help anyone to better educate children.
Mackenzie suggests that childhood and the homeschool experience should be one that families look back on and describe as “warm, conversational, and infused with truth, goodness, and beauty.”
She says that homeschoolers should worry less about specific curricular choices and more about the entire experience of the child and the family. “If we don’t know where we’re going, what our purpose is for our children, our homeschool, and our family culture, it will be impossible to know what should go and what should stay.”
Mackenzie says how you teach is as important as what you teach, meaning atmosphere is critical. More than just “covering material,” learning occurs when children are taught in a manner that allows them to love it, to think logically, and when they are encouraged to realize their full potential. She emphasizes, “Meaningful learning happens when our children wrestle directly with great ideas — not as a result of our repackaging those great ideas, but when they interact with the ideas themselves.”
She says to avoid all “that becomes a series of checkboxes and canned activities in our efforts to prove that learning is happening, even when it isn’t.”
Mackenzie includes many practical tips, such as that parents should integrate subjects. She offers as an example reading The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which includes “wrestling” with history, geography, writing, vocabulary, theology, and philosophy.
Other tips are: Keep it simple — don’t fall for gimmicks. Read to and allow children time to read every day. Students should write and do math daily. Allow time for review. Allot more time during each subject than the actual lesson plan is projected to take, which allows breathing room for exceptional days. She says, “If education is in part an atmosphere, then creating an atmosphere of peace should be of utmost importance.”
Mackenzie finds that six-week terms, followed by a week during which she reassesses, eliminates anxiety over lesson plans or any impulse to precipitously ditch curriculum. She determines any needed changes once the term concludes.
The author relays advice that experienced homeschoolers have offered to her. They say to “focus on relationships, to help my children preserve wonder and perceive truth, and to do each day’s work as diligently as I can.”