I am not sure the first time I heard it. I know it was in our first year homeschooling. It may have even been in our first month.
It was some variation of “You want to inspire your kids to learn, not require it of them.”
I remember thinking it was brilliant. I remember thinking, “Of course!”
And then I remember yelling at my son for not doing his worksheet on Ancient Egypt. So much for inspire.
Over the years, I have often reflected on this piece of advice.
Some days, when my kids are skipping through the halls of the science center, or re-enacting the Cold War in our living room, I am amazed at how inspired they really are when it comes to natural learning.
Other days, I am freaking out because neither of them wants to do anything other than play computer games.
Don’t they know they are going to be adults soon and have to get a job and be functional people and how will my youngest ever learn to read and maybe I should’ve been requiring a whole lot more all along and look at all the things my friend who is a classical homeschooler requires of her children each day and aren’t they great?
It was Charlotte Mason who said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
I am very much aware that I am better at the atmosphere and life part than I am the discipline. Seven years of homeschooling have taught me a balance between all three might be my goal but is almost never my reality.
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What I’ve Learned About “Inspire Not Require” In Our Homeschool
1. My children really are natural learners.
I am amazed at how much my boys have learned entirely independent of me. They enjoy watching science shows and documentaries. They spontaneously talk about current events with me and with each other. Despite being 11 and 14, they delight in finding some unusual specimen of nature on our hikes.
The truth is, my children are capable of so much more than I usually give them credit for. Given the tools, time, and space, I am pretty sure they can learn just about anything.
2. Sometimes, I have to require.
Having acknowledged their natural inclination to learn, I also believe that there are just some things I need to require – not because they simply will not learn without it, but because I am a person in this homeschool triangle, too.
I want them to know certain elements of history. I delight in reading aloud. Swinging the pendulum of our homeschool all the way to unabashed unschooling is just not something I enjoy.
This actually has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the fact that I am also a component of our homeschool. What works is a balance between us all.
What it means is that we include a few, well-thought-out requirements that keep me sane and teach my children about diligence and compromise.
3. Relationship has more impact than inspiration.
I have learned that “inspire not require” is really not the most important element of our schooling. Relationship is.
If my boys feel supported as people and fiercely loved as sons, I find their learning cannot be contained, even if it is sometimes required.
I don’t disagree with Charlotte Mason’s summary of education as atmosphere, discipline, and life, but I find that I do have my own three words for how education works best in our home: relationship, diligence, and fun.
What three words describe how education works best in your home?