Early in my homeschooling journey, my two boys and I were perusing the local bookstore when a title caught my eye. I purchased it, took it home, and put it on the top of my bubble bath book stack.
It was a book about education reform. On the first page, it asked me to consider if school really was as pointless as most of us think it is when we are going through it.
He believed it is. He said the big problem with our traditional public school system is that learning has become decontextualized. That we think with each assignment, each lesson, each test, we are giving a child a brick. The idea is that after they have enough bricks, they will have built a house. The reality for far too many children, he claimed, was that instead of having a house at the end of their twelve years in school, all they have is a pile of bricks. And they don’t have them for long.
It painted a pretty bleak picture, and yet it resonated with me. I appreciated that he was willing to challenge assumptions, even at the risk of the reader’s discomfort or outright outrage.
He didn’t offend me. He turned on a flashlight.
I worked hard to give my children not only bricks, but blueprints for how to build a house. I was keenly aware that my example was that of master architect, and I was keenly aware of my every misstep. I learned as I went along, with only the occasional brick thrown back in my face.
After a few more years of homeschooling, however, I discovered something. The purpose of these days with my children is not to help them build their houses.
We’re building something else entirely. And I’m not the master architect.
Because they may not want or need a brick house when they turn 18. It’s not my job to prescribe that for them. There’s no crystal ball, no way to know what they’ll be asked to face ten, twenty, thirty years from now. The world is changing too fast.
Then what are we doing here, day after day, brick after brick?
We’re laying these bricks not for a house, but a path.
I don’t give my children bricks very often. They find them everywhere. They pick them up and come running, shouting, “Mom! Look at this! Is this a good one?” My job is to show them that bricks are worth finding, lifting, and laying. So I send them outside, I give them some mud, provide some trowels, and set to work myself.
It’s messy work, and snail-slow going. But we’re on hands and knees together. And I’ve noticed that they only grumble when I do.
Our path is a little longer now, and stretching toward green hills. You can stare too long at the brick in your hands, and forget how far you’ve come. You can sit, discouraged, on the path you've built and wonder why you're not getting anywhere.
Or you can go find another brick, and trust the process. Sometimes there's sun, sometimes there's rain. Sometimes you're hungry or tired.
And you think to yourself, "Well, if we're hungry, we'll stop to eat. If we're tired, we'll take a rest." And you keep on going tomorrow.
Your neighbor is riding an escalator into the clouds. A passerby, or maybe even your child, asks why you're not. "Oh," you say, "I suppose it's because that's not where we're trying to go."
"Why not?" he might say, curious now.
"Because," you answer. "That's not where things grow."