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[Editor's Note: In this article, Marilyn Howshall summarizes the primary components of the Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach that are more thoroughly discussed in the book set, Wisdom’s Way of Learning.]

Let us consider for a moment the challenges and problems confronting us as Christian home educators. We come from a generation that was not taught how to learn. Few adults know how to learn, mastering a subject of interest for themselves, and putting it to practical use in their lives. Few Christians know how to access the Word of God for themselves bringing about a deep and powerful renewal of the mind that changes their lives, and even fewer still know how to access the Lord for themselves in an intimate way, bringing about powerful transformation of heart and soul.

A vivid example was brought to my attention once at a Lifestyle of Learning™ conference when a professional psychiatrist told me that after thirteen years of college education he came away with a greatly diminished love for learning and practically no ability to learn and master anything on his own. He had mastered the art of taking tests and doing assignments, in a word doing what he was told, but never was taught how to learn on his own. This same condition is prevalent throughout all segments of society, from grade school to the professionally educated. Einstein once said that school tests, and the cramming of superfluous subject material necessary to pass them, took the joy out of learning for him, and upon graduation from university he spent the better part of a year viewing learning as a distasteful activity. This type of learning does little more than clutter the mind, effectively crowding out opportunity to discover creation’s mysteries, and robs the student of the needed freedom for creative and deeper or profound thought.

Robert Allen of Multiple Streams of Income fame calls the type of education we all received from the school system “informational learning.” He says that it’s not so much that we don’t know enough, it’s that we don’t know how to use what we do know. He suggests that what we need is “transformational learning”—a process of learning from the inside out, which is a natural learning process. Transformational learning shapes us to become strong in character (God’s expressed desire for believers), and it develops within us skills and abilities that informational learning alone cannot accomplish. It provides a way for Christians to combine principles of inner growth with principles of learning for a whole-life education that can promote true, heart-level discipleship.

The major problem of informational learning is that it is not designed to nurture a love of learning in us so we're able to continue to develop a lifestyle of learning on our own, becoming masters of our own education. Nor can informational learning develop practical skills and abilities that will give us meaningful and satisfying purpose. Continuing to accept these unhealthy and unbiblical ways would be a great loss to our children's generation. We must realize that we can train up our children beginning anew with an entirely different approach to the learning process; one that will develop in us the ability to become self-taught and self-discipled as we submit our lives to the Lord. This new process will produce much growth and change in us, transforming our lives and releasing us into greater potential, thus making the task of educating our families more rewarding and the fruit successful.

A New Learning Process Begins

As parents, we usually begin with only the raw material of our own schooling to work with, while attempting to implement new ideas into our pre-existing lifestyles and ideas of education. In so doing, we create additional problems for ourselves, among them confusion and burn-out! We use the world’s methods and tools to produce something they were not designed to produce. When we finally accept the truth that the old familiar way will not produce the results we want, we are ready to receive the suggestion of a new way. Now we are ready to learn. That is what Lifestyle of Learning™ is all about—a new way of life, a new system—applying principles for inner growth instead of following programs—and a fresh beginning for the entire family. My hope is to encourage you with practical solutions to common challenges and problems that will propel you into a higher level of understanding about education and a wonderful new homeschool adventure.

Lifestyle of Learning™—An Intriguing Expression

Lifestyle of Learning™ is an intriguing expression—one that captures the heart and mind and perhaps a little of the imagination as well. It alludes to new ideas, new ways, and freedom! While the expression “lifestyle of learning” does in a way define itself, it still requires a more thorough definition. In our traditional educational system, the activity of “learning” has been distorted from its true nature to look like something many of us would want to have as little to do with as possible. So, to expect one to want to pursue a lifestyle of it?—not likely. Likewise, the average individual’s lifestyle is nearly void of any activity that could be considered a learning experience or educational in nature. So, the question surfaces, “How can I get an education out of my lifestyle?” It may startle us to realize that families have been doing just that for thousands of years!

Lifestyle Matters

Learning as a lifestyle is not just a nice idea to incorporate into our existing lifestyle or even into our current educational programs in a last-ditch attempt to upgrade or redeem them somehow. Rather, it is truly a change-of-lifestyle issue. Consider the average family’s lifestyle in our modern culture.

Many moms struggle to find a way to motivate their children to enjoy the learning they are made to do or even to learn on their own. If you were to enter the home of any average homeschool family you would find them “doing their thing.” These activities are what make up their lifestyle. Many are found pressing their children into assignments that separate knowledge into subjects which are required by mom before the child is permitted to get on with his own thing. Family members can be found watching too much television, playing video games, hanging around idle, perpetually riding bikes around the neighborhood, pursuing friends or playing with useless toys. Children will be found antagonizing each other instead of enjoying each other or being helpful toward one another. Mom is little more than a chauffeur, taking her children to various learning opportunities she thinks are necessary for their education. This indulgence that produces boredom seems to be the rule of the house. So, it is easy to see why it might be difficult for average parents to acquire vision for an education out of their current set of lifestyle values—there is not much quality learning taking place.

Then, What is a Lifestyle of Learning™?

In the Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach, parents must become honest about their own education and commit to beginning a process of developing a relationship with their own growth and change in order to model and lead their children in the same way. We must become not only homeschoolers but also homeschooled along with our children. If perhaps you don’t like the expression “homeschooling” how about “home educating.” Education implies whole-life and character preparation more than a mere academic preparation implies. We must not only be home educators, but also become home educated, embracing inner growth right along with our children. If not, we will be forced to reproduce in our children’s lives the same old, lifeless and artificial education we were given. We must also commit to a steady increase of the quality of our family’s lifestyle activities. When we do, we open the door for learning opportunities to come into our home. The fuller your lifestyle becomes with real life and worthwhile activity, the easier education becomes. In time, learning as a lifestyle will be completely natural and second nature to you. A happy result of a rich lifestyle of learning is that you are free to enjoy education and life as they leave their compartmentalized time slots and become one. This is because a lifestyle rich in high quality real life interests, activities, and responsibilities that are properly directed will cumulatively produce a unique and quality education.

Still, this definition leaves too many unanswered questions. We cannot begin to understand this ideal and everything else that a lifestyle of learning entails within the context of all our preconceived and mixed-up ideas about education—how we have been taught education is supposed to look like in our lives, and even what its fruit is supposed to be. The best way to define Lifestyle of Learning™ as an approach is to define its goals. In this way the hoped-for fruit, too, will be defined and will in nature be quite different from the fruit of traditional education, even that which is being produced in many homeschools today. What produces differing results between traditional education in the home and a lifestyle of learning? —biblical principles for living, learning and the training and discipling of children—a whole-life approach to education.

Three Lifestyle of Learning™ Goals

Defining our goals before proceeding with our children’s education is crucial to know how to proceed. In fact, it will matter little how we proceed if we only wish to prepare our children in general ways according to society's standards. All we have to do is follow its familiar procedures and we are assured of the outcome according to its known standards. However, if we possess vision for an individual learning process and product for our children then defining our goals is absolutely necessary, because there will be no familiar model to copy. We are warned in Scripture that if we choose to go without well-defined goals (vision) we will perish by going unrestrained in many directions or, as in the case of following a traditional path, perhaps the wrong direction, gaining little ground and producing little to no good or godly fruit for all of our expended efforts (Proverbs 29:18).

Our traditional educational approach comes complete with a “system” that consists of a framework (hours set aside as "school time"), content agenda (knowledge separated into subjects imposed from the system), and learning methods (classrooms, textbooks, workbooks, assignments, and tests). Likewise, Lifestyle of Learning™ as an educational approach possesses its own unique system. The system is based on biblical principles and it was designed to facilitate the goals of true learning through real-life.

There are three Lifestyle of Learning™ goals that when diligently followed will produce godly fruit in every area of the child’s development. They are derived from the Biblical S.A.T.s which are discussed completely in the four book series Wisdom's Way of Learning. We could say, if we wish to be official with our educational terminology (and many do), that the goal of Lifestyle of Learning™ is that our children’s education reflects all three components of learning—its science, its art, and its tools. This gives them a complete education. A healthy representation of the S.A.T.s in an individual’s life indicates true learning is taking place, thus producing within the student a true education. Lifestyle of Learning™ translates the S.A.T.s into three practical and biblical goals.

The Science of Learning Provides a First Goal

Goal #1—A Godly Product and a Healthy Process

The Science of learning includes both a product and a process. The quality of these elements will be a direct reflection of the nature of our goals. The first goal of a Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach is a new and godly product in our children and a new and living process by which they achieve that product. The principles of the Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach encourage parents to disciple their children to Jesus and to prepare them to fulfill God’s design for their lives through definable life-purpose, in keeping with the child's stages of growth. The approach also leads you to create a method of lifestyle and a system of education that will become subject to individual and family life purpose in keeping with the seasons of the family's development. In other words, purpose begins now and not ten years from now, and purpose unfolds and develops along with the growth and development of the family.

Purpose—The Product of Learning

Parents and children are led to know God’s will and are given simple and practical learning models to help them to achieve their goals. A worthy goal for a lifestyle of learning is one that will disciple children to Jesus and will prepare them for an individual, definable life-purpose, by God’s design for them, both while they are young and before graduation in keeping with the development of the child's true identity. This ideal already departs from the norm where children often grow up through adolescence without knowing what they are doing with their daily lives, while being forced to engage in empty activity that keeps them immature. Many go on to college still in a wandering and confused state of identity.

Do not let the expression “definable purpose” throw you. I do not mean that the child must knowingly be walking in a specific vocation or career choice, such as teacher, veterinarian, and so on. I simply mean that the child’s daily life can be full of valuable and productive purpose based upon his current level of ability in every area of interest and responsibility, no matter whether or not it appears his activities could lead to defining a vocation or career. For instance, many children who grow up to love animals never become veterinarians and likewise possessing a teacher’s bent will not automatically translate into becoming a teacher as we are familiar with the teaching profession. A child brought up in a lifestyle of learning environment may develop a variety of interests along with related abilities, and as a result be presented a broader range of opportunities for vocational expression.

Christian parents have the blessed opportunity to build a legacy of destiny and purpose for their children and grandchildren—a worthy product. A life-changing, dynamic fact of the Lifestyle of Learning™ approach that other homeschool approaches and programs do not touch is the entrepreneurial vision and apprenticeship training that is built into the very fiber of the undergirding biblical principles of this approach. Developing a family business or ministry, and parents apprenticing their own children, wherever possible, are new and exciting options to consider. The added benefit of the family’s centralized purpose, from which all academic disciplines can flow, makes possible a much more efficient and fruitful use of the time allotted for the education of children. When the family is involved in a viable central purpose together it is easier to maintain in children a high level of learning interest over the long term, which in turn keeps boredom and burnout out of the home.

A central family purpose is not suggested to the exclusion of wholly developing the individuality of each family member. A complete development of individual gifts, bents, traits, and interests is strongly encouraged. It is not necessary to know right away how these fit the central purpose of the family or if they ever fit, it’s just important that each child becomes whole and comes to know that he has something to contribute to the family based upon his own uniqueness. God has a way of fitting all things together for good. Lifestyle of Learning™ leads parents to simply explore who their children are and to allow them creative development.

Individuality—The Process of Learning

When a child is led to embrace the development of his own learning process, by connecting to what is going on inside of him, relating with his own education, he will also come to understand how he learns and be confident in his ability to do so. He will be able to approach the learning of any new subject or interest with intentions toward mastery from the outset. It will by nature be individual and not a cookie-cutter sort at all. His process will possess an unpredictable nature in that he will choose many different avenues suited uniquely to him for learning his subject, but the outcome will be predictable in that he will achieve a level of mastery and will know why he’s learning his chosen subject and how it relates to his life. The principle of individuality is the facet of human nature that determines the purpose of the individual, which in turn ought to determine the process by which the individual journies there. Who better to know the individual process than the child himself, even if he doesn’t yet know his future purpose? A healthy and desirable purpose unfolds through a healthy and desirable process. Allowing an individual process would necessitate the exercise of wisdom and constraint by loving parents to ensure the child’s character is being addressed throughout whatever unique, creative process he is engaged. This is quite a challenge for the parent who wants to be in control.

The Art of Learning Provides a Second Goal

Goal #2—Develop a Love of Learning

The second goal of Lifestyle of Learning™ is to develop a strong love of learning in children that will prevail throughout their lives so they willingly embrace a vital relationship with their own learning process and master their own education.

In order to facilitate a healthy learning process that results in both individual scholarship and individual discipleship, a love of learning must be nurtured in children that will continue to prevail in their lives even throughout adolescence. This means that a child is taught to develop a vital relationship with his own learning process; his own growth and development. Again, this departs from the norm where most children are burned out from too much artificial education by the time they reach eleven or twelve years old. They should still be gaining momentum at this time and be ready to take off on their own unique learning adventure by the time they reach fourteen or fifteen years of age.

The Art of learning gives us the individual, unique expression and reflection of the child’s personality, abilities, style, giftings, and peculiar bents and traits. A healthy love of learning will only develop if we accept our children for who they are as God made them. If the unique heartbeat of each child is recognized and carefully nurtured, the natural result will be a well-developed love of learning in the child. This is accomplished by developing a learning and staying-at-home lifestyle, rich in purpose by the parent’s design. When parents use a heart-to-heart approach to learning and a modeling approach to discipleship, children develop a living education full of passion for life and learning resulting in a living relationship with a living God. Thus, the Art of learning leads us to our second goal.

The Tools of Learning Provide a Third Goal

Goal #3—Develop Learning Tools, (research, reason, relate, record, and rhetoric) These tools equip children with skillful use of the language learning tools in two areas of academic need. Most of the focus for the application of tools will be within the context of their natural delight-directed interests and abilities that will aid in developing vision for their future. A secondary focus for the application of learning tools will be within the supportive areas of academic need as expressed through individual scholarship.

Children must be equipped with learning tools from a young age so the first two goals may be achieved. Again, this goal seriously departs from the norm as traditional academic methodology is nearly void of the goal to develop learning tools in the student in spite of all the academics school children engage in daily.

The tools of learning (research, reason, relate, record, and rhetoric) sound so academic to our “schooled” senses. Our understanding of how to bring about the development of learning tools in children, while at the same time allowing them a lengthy process for their development, is crucial or we will continue in the mindset that much school-style, content-focused academics equals well developed learning tools. This is not so. Wisdom’s Way of Learning provides both informal and formal learning models that will develop the learning tools through means that are in harmony with a natural lifestyle of learning.

The family’s immediate environment, God-given life circumstances, inter-family relationships, delight-directed interests, skills, talents, giftings, and entrepreneurial structures are all collectively used as the springboard for the application and development of elementary and informal learning tools. This unique, God-provided collection of circumstances is also extended into the development of more formal learning tools commonly used in advanced studies, such as an in-depth word Bible study, which can yield a powerful life-message for the student.

The Family's Lifestyle Must Support the Goals

Again, the three Lifestyle of Learning™ goals are: Science ~ student is discipled to Jesus and to an individual definable life-purpose; Art ~ student possesses a love of learning by relating with his own learning process along with unique process of expression; and Tools ~ student is equipped with the tools for learning needed to pursue a vital learning process throughout childhood that will continue to deepen into adulthood, producing individual scholarship.

These may seem to be simple and even desirable educational ideals, but many parents continue to violate the very principles that would help them to succeed. They choose an educational system and follow a lifestyle in their home that make the goals difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. The traditional system is not designed to meet even one of these three goals. It is actually counterproductive to them, possessing a different agenda altogether. This is where traditional education begins to break down—at the outset—the setting of its goals. When our familiar and time-honored system was in the infancy stages of development, its operating principles were not founded on Jesus Christ who is the Author of truth. It had no chance of standing forever.

About Curriculum and Subjects

Many of the principles outlined in Wisdom’s Way of Learning and its supplemental materials have been applied for thousands of years without ever having labels attached to them. Godly child training, family’s working their own business, and parent’s tending to the needs of their own children, discipling them to the Lord, apprenticing them, and so forth. These are all ancient and biblical educational principles.

However, when one hears the word educational “approach” or “method” the tendency in this day and age is to ask, “Where’s the curriculum?” or “What will I be using this year?” A focus on irrelevant-to-the-student subject content that is delivered through a lifeless process is a lower order approach to education and one you will not find in the Lifestyle of Learning™ message other than the emphasis of using the content of real-life as God provides it—real life, such as the family’s unique circumstances, lifestyle provisions, abilities, giftings, talents, skills, interests of family members and other learning aids as you see fit.

Most people naturally desire a step-by-step outline of procedures for how to do something that is new and unfamiliar to them. It is common for academic curriculum to contain such guidelines to help you accomplish specific academic tasks; for instance a reading program will help you to teach reading to your children. This can give the teacher a sense of security but can also create a void of unique expression and application. The Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach does not present step-by-step instructions for daily application as when learning a task or skill for the first time, but can direct you in the bigger picture as far as significant lifestyle changes that once initiated will continue to unfold over a period of time. These changes will make possible the application of the principles presented in the Lifestyle of Learning™ message. Lifestyle of Learning™ is a whole-life curriculum, if you need a defining expression you can relate to.

Most prepared, task-oriented curriculum aids reflect a content-based philosophy that is knowledge-driven. A Lifestyle of Learning™ Approach more appropriately utilizes the content of real-life and the family’s purpose, in addition to their desired subjects of interest through which to carry out the academic disciplines. It is relational-driven. Therefore, to utilize a prepared, content-based curriculum robs us of the real-life we already have at our disposal and robs the child of developing his interests and peculiar bents more fully robbing the child of learning how to relate with his own learning process, and robbing the parents of getting to know their children more deeply. It is important to note that a singular focus on academics will always be task-oriented using someone else’s content agenda. Whereas, the training of the whole child, while it will include many tasks, academic and otherwise, will focus more appropriately on the child’s development from the inside and the child’s individual purpose as reflected in his peculiar bents and interests. When it is time for academic tasks, they will reflect the content of the child’s own life and interests and that of the family’s purpose and their beliefs.

The Lifestyle of Learning™ message has been lovingly prepared to equip parents to provide a distinctively Christian education for their families—one uniquely suited to their individual circumstances and needs—a way that is not burdensome, but richly satisfying and purposeful.

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