So, this was the conference that last year first sparked my interest in my own education. I will also add here, the powder to this spark was the Classical Conversations practicuum in June 2011 and reading (within days of the practicuum) A Thomas Jefferson Education. And I cannot forget also the painful pruning of God: being removed from management at work. This was not due to any failure on my part, but a flattening of the reporting structure. There could have been some lack of confidence in me from some, but my performance review was outstanding. I took it as an insult–precisely because this position had become an idol and source of pride in my life. I am very achievement oriented, and this position consumed my mind and planning. Many of the skills I learned during that year of management were very valuable, and I use them now with my family and others. I did come to see that this was a bone fide pruning, and it helped me to see that there was a greater purpose at work. This vacancy of work focus provided room and wind to my growing love of self-education.
Back to the NCHE Conference: As I looked around the conference and listened to the wisdom of the speakers, it really occured to me that I must get more involved in my children’s education. My attitude had been “my wife’s got this.” I worked hard 40-50 hours a week and my off time was my off time. Not that I segregated myself from everyone else, but I didn’t think to direct the home. I wanted to pursue my own interests, at times exclusively.
Part of my current activities are to read to the kids as often as possible. Before basketball season, and definitely through the summer, I read to them every day. Right now I am reading Treasure Island, and either my wife or I read the Bible to the younger kids every evening.
Another part is being able to talk through current events or science or history. With my knowledge now of intelligent design, I can talk about the details of life. It has also renewed my interest in what is going on in academia, which, through rote routine scientific work, had atrophied. (I am a scientist, but I am more specialized to techniques. My knowledge of the current research is actually limited.) We just finished watching the Horatio Hornblower series, and used that as ground to discussion. In general, I now try to stop to discuss what is going on and bring meaning to as much as possible. For instance, when we were watching The Spiderwick Chronicles, I stopped the movie and asked my kids what they thought of the family dynamics at the beginning of the film. We discussed divorce, how it affects everyone, how there are families who experience this all the time, and how Jesus could provide the healing.
Another part of our home now is a focus on music. With our involvement in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, we have paid off more debt and have prioritized our money to better things. We are still not completely out of debt, but we have been able to provide piano lessons for the kids for the past year, and now want to pursue violin/guitar with the two oldest. This is real investment!
With regard to money, we have set up a chore chart and allowed the kids to earn money, and through this they have learned both the value of money and how to manage it. When the want candy or gum, they buy it. When they want toys, they save and buy it. Just yesterday, my oldest daughter (who gets more, and also is responsible to buy her own clothes) was talking about a beautiful dress that was $40. She was shocked and outraged that something so simple was that expensive! That was music to my ears!
By really evaluating the holes in my education, remembering the passion and wonder I sometimes had for learning, I have sought to provide a good structure here at home, or at least give input. By being involved, I am able to give both my wife as teacher and my kids (especially my 14-year-old) both advice and direction in organizing the day and week, skills essential for college and beyond.
So, to say the least (which I didn’t), I am very excited for this year’s conference!!