Saturday, January 26, 2008

Filling a Pail or Lighting a Fire?

*updated 7/20/16

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats

I heard Chris Davis give a talk based on this quote many years ago at the NCHE Homeschool Conference, and have loved it ever since. For 13 years I have been attempting to "light a fire" in my children, to foster a life-long love for learning, to prod them toward an independent mode of learning not dependent upon a textbook or instructor. I believe that education is something that we pursue, not something that is "done to us". I can't "educate" my children, but I can provide them with materials and information and experiences to help them acquire knowledge and wisdom in their life journey!

Education that "lights a fire" is a lifestyle. We do use curriculum and some textbooks and occasional instructors in this process. But this type of education doesn't fit neatly into a box of 9am -3pm, 180 days a year, for 12 years ( more if you add on "higher education" ) If so, what exactly is happening in those remaining hours, days, and years? Rather every hour of every day is an "educational" experience. We are always learning something, aren't we? We might be learning about life in ancient Egypt, how to play a musical instrument, how to clean a bathroom, how to treat another person with compassion, how to prepare a nutritious meal, or how to give up something we want for the benefit of the whole family. I so appreciate the flexibility I have as a homeschooler to let our daily schedule and our curriculum and our activities fit us as a family.

Education that "lights a fire" addresses the whole person. During our children's "school years", we want to help them acquire certain skills and knowledge in order to be prepared not only for the adult world of work, but also for marriage and parenthood and service to the Lord. 

As parents, we have the opportunity and responsibility to determine what we want our children to know and experience before leaving home. Some of those things may be determined by their goal of college, since they will have to meet entrance requirements for any institution they wish to attend. Other requirements might involve developing a biblical worldview, learning certain life skills, exposure to the arts, and participating in community service and missions. 

Education that "lights a fire" is personalized. Each of my children has unique abilities and giftings given by God, and I want to help them discover those gifts and develop them as best we are able. Those gifts may be academic, they may be social, they may be musical, they may be mechanical, they may be physical, etc. This is partly why, to my husband's chagrin, I cannot just buy one set of curriculum for 12 years and expect each of my five children to plow through it. Children have different learning styles and different needs, so an approach that is helpful for one might not be best for the next child. 

We have used a mish mash of curriculums over the years -  Five in a Row,  Prairie Primer, KONOS, Tapestry of Grace, to name just a few -  and I've used different math, grammar, writing materials for each child. While one child had lots of art and music, another had lots of computer and P.E. 

A bucket sits passively and waits to be filled. And once filled, no more can be added. A fire, once kindled, burns for as long as there is fuel. Hopefully that will be for as long as we live! 


Gina Witcher / Runnermom4 said...

I just wanted you to know I clicked on "Heart of the Matter" and got an error page. I didn't know if it was the link or what you typed in.

NCLighthousekeeper said...

Okay ~ should be fixed now! That's what I get for blogging late at night. :-)

Creech Family said...

D and I were just talking about the "lighting the fire" concept on Friday! Ethan has had absolutely no interest in learning letters or phonic and on Friday I was going through some old Bulletin Board letters I used with Emma and before an hour had passed he was reading some basic 3 letter words! Amazing to see that fire lit and how glad I was that I hadn't kept "kicking at the bucket" like I am prone to do!!
I think your children are on fire not only with learning but better yet for the Lord and that is so awesome! Only the Lord knows what your hard work and love will produce for many generations to come. Thanks for teaching me so much not just about homeschooling but about parenting! Love to see you sometime soon - we need to have a get together! Take care -