A home teacher wanders through a maze of options. The complexity she faces can easily put her in a muddle. Decisions of all kinds must be made. Upon entering the maze it is good to pause and ask, “What is education all about?”

At the mention of the word education what comes to mind? Do you see what I see? Do you see a chalk board, rows of desks with bored or bewildered children sitting in them, red marks on papers, heavy textbooks with long lists of questions to answer, pop quizzes, and report cards?

Is this what education is all about?

In the early years of my homeschooling experience, the more I read about Miss Charlotte Mason’s views on education the more I understood that this is not essentially what education is all about. Miss Mason, a 19th-century British educator, helped me through the maze. She liked to use the old Saxon phrase bringing up to express her educational ideas.

With this refreshingly new concept of education held in the back of my mind I worked toward having well-brought-up children. To simplify, I aimed to give my children each day:

Someone/something to love,

Something to do,

Something to think about.*

It was in uncovering an old article written by Miss Mason’s biographer that I first came across this triplet. It stuck by me through all my homeschooling years. It was one of the most helpful outlooks I’d come across. Seeing education as consisting of three easy-to-remember opportunities may help you maneuver through the maze too.

Someone/Something to Love

The child is a person. He is not enlightened by means of an overabundance of multiple-choice tests but rather by people in his life whom he comes to know, admire, and love. We are educated by our relationships: our family, our friendships, and by our intimacies. Think of how the actions of someone you admire influence your behavior. Similarly, think of how a boy’s interest is sparked by a hobby he loves, and to which he devotes his time and trouble. There are opportunities to love (and serve) in every home.

Something to Do

When our children complain, “There is nothing to do,” what they really mean is “amuse me.” Sitting passively in front of a screen is not really a worthwhile thing to do. A child can be guided in meaningful tasks of recreation and service. Such things “to do” could be:

• Listening to little sister read aloud or teaching her how to “jump in” at jump rope

• Writing a play to put on for family members or giving a puppet show

• Practicing a song on the violin or piano to play at the old folks’ home or church

• Peeling vegetables for soup or salad

• Planning or tending a garden

• Working with wood or leather

• Sewing doll clothes, quilting, learning to make a mitten

• Putting together a model Roman villa, a pyramid, a castle*

• Building a kite from a kit and flying it

• Pushing little brother on a swing

A frequent request in our house was “Mom, look what I made.” Hearing these words from my children always created a quiet and satisfying joy in my heart.

Something to Think About

Something to think about is one of the most important parts of living “the educational life.” It is appreciating what other people have to tell us in their books, their thoughts, and their jokes. It is noticing beauty in music, paintings, or buildings. It is observing country seasons, sights and sounds, trees, insects, birds, and flowers. Children’s horizons need to be wider than their workbooks.*

People who learn to use their minds do not rush off to every kind of amusement or get hooked on passive screen time. When young, children’s minds are naturally curious. Their curiosity can be “schooled out of them” by too much emphasis on testing. Children will, however, regain an open mind when they are presented with ideas that are interesting and inspiring. One example of this is giving children heroes in history, science, and religion. As you do, you will be giving your children something worthwhile to think about — not just for a test — but ideas to welcome as part of their lives, inspiring ideas that contribute to their personalities. Are the materials in your homeschool — the books, arts, the audio CDs, activities, and observations — interesting?