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A HOME*schooling Inquiry: What is Your Child's PURPOSE?


[Note: the following was written in response to an inquiry by a mother,addressed to an internet discussion group, regarding her relationship to the education ofher children. She was considering the possibility of "home schooling" thechildren, but what she really wanted to know involved issues such as: "Wheredo I start in my participation with my children’s education?"; "Whatis the best possible education my children could have, the one they would love tohave?"; and, "What relationship would I, as a parent, love to have to theeducation of my children?" As you will notice, what follows is not about"where" a child’s education might best happen. By HOME we mean achild’s purpose on the planet or, if you will, God’s purpose for yourchild. Our reference is to discerning and nurturing, educating that child in such away that both child and purpose are able to manifest as fully, beautifully and joyfully aspossible.]


You said you were "looking for advice and suggestions on how tostart homeschooling [your] children" (ages 5, 4 & 9 mos.). You said you wouldlike to know how to fit home schooling into your day and get organized, and indicated thatyou were "very intimidated by the thought of homeschooling."

First, it sounds as though you already have "started!" Youalready have children, and you have clearly given thought to the best education they couldpossibly have. One of our young children (JM) and I recently went to dinner with a womanwho might be described as extremely interested in home schooling. She was describing indetail how she intended to proceed with her child's home schooling program. I suppose Ishould mention that her first child is due to be born in a few months. JM, who has beenand is being home schooled, listened to her elaborate plans, then caught her in atypically tractor-beam gaze and said, "I think you should meet this childfirst!"

1. At its best, home schooling begins in much the same way panning forgold does. Until you see a child's INTEREST glistening, you can invest all the energy youwant, but you'll just be moving ... and maybe muddying ... the waters of life which can bemade to swirl around a child. I say "INTEREST" instead of "interest"because human children, like human adults, can get "interested" in just aboutanything, even if the subject of their interim fascination has little to do with them inthe long run. Much of what has passed for "education" involves insistence thatchildren "pay attention to" things which are merely interesting, instead ofthings which truly engage the very fibers of a particular child's spirit. The result: manychildren receive an education which might have been wonderful for someone, but has littleto do with them! It is no accident that children trained in such a way so oftenmarry someone "interesting" (and later experience themselves "growingapart" from that person) and find themselves dissatisfied with a series of"careers" which, when they entered them, looked "interesting."

2. At the most fundamental level, take a look at who you consider achild to be. Do you think of a child as a "human" being, who will have thevarious experiences human beings have, mental, physical, spiritual, etc? Or do youconsider a child to be a "spiritual" being, here for the experience of beinghuman? If you orient from the latter, it will probably be easier for you to hold thepossibility that a child came here with what might be called a "purpose," anessential experience which that child has every intention of creating while here. Thiswill give you a more useful "organizing principle" for interacting with thatchild's education than, for example, somebody's good ideas about a "curriculum for achild of a certain age or grade!" The only thing which accurately allows predictionof human behavior is purpose. People can be counted on to act in manners which arefaithful to their purpose, even if their chosen actions are terribly "bound up."People cannot be counted on to be faithful to other people unless that fidelity isa function of their purpose, the essential thing they came here to do. Much less can achild be counted upon to faithfully do such things as homework assignments which are notdeeply grounded in purpose! Home schooling which is not about a particular child's purposeis just like any other schooling: if force is exerted, even in the simple form of subtlemental coercion, a child can often be made to comply. Such a child is likely, though, tospend a great deal of time bored, perhaps even consciously angry, and will notconsistently find joy in the process. This is not good news, to understate the matter, forthe "teacher" who attempts to impose such a system. Such a child often does notlike such a "teacher," experiencing this person more as impediment than partner.As a parent who wants the most loving possible relationship with their child, it ishazardous to enter a "home schooling" relationship which is based on anythingless than the discernment and forwarding of a child's purpose. Actually, it is hazardousto enter any relationship on a lesser level than that! Too often, someone ... anindividual or perhaps an institution or "society" ... has an opinion about who achild "should" become which bears little or no relationship to a particularchild's purpose. Those people and entities tend to become "the enemy," and suchrelationship as exists with the child tends to be filled with oppositions, enmities,almost anything but the experience of profound partnership.

3. It is an amazingly easy thing to discern a child's purpose. Isuppose it is good to know how to do it, but once you know how, it is an easy thing to do.If a person does not know how to go about this, it is probably because, like so manyothers in our society, they have been trained to pay attention to other and less usefulthings such as the child's latest behavior. I can honestly tell you that home schoolingour children has been the easiest serious thing I have ever done in my life. Withoutknowing about this discernment issue, and participating with our children from thisorientation, I am quite certain it would have been one of the most difficult! I have noidea how much you already know about "discerning a child's purpose" ... or yourown, for that matter! But you asked "where to start," and this is definitely theplace! If you are truly a novice and have not yet really developed your ability to bediscerning in this regard, I wish we could sit and talk for about a day. Short of that, Ican give you a few pointers.

3.1. "Passion" is a useful clue when in the process ofdiscerning a child's purpose. The number one job of a home schooling parent is to watchlike a hawk for your child's moments of greatest passion, whatever the form that passionmight take. It is insufficient to watch for things which merely draw your child'sattention, or which your child "likes." It may be useful for you to create inyourself an assumption that, when life presents itself powerfully in your child'sexperience ... whether or not that presentation "fits your pictures" ... moremay be involved than "accident." You might even want to hold the possibilitythat "your child's purpose" may also be "God's purpose for yourchild," or however you might say that in your own system. Then you will be able totake your attention off your own judgments of, for instance, whether a thing which justhappened is "good" or "bad." Instead, you can put your attention onhow the occurrence might be forwarding of a profound purpose which is emerging in andthrough your child.

3.2. Example: CK is 3 years younger than JM. CK's first truly"traumatic" experience involved being present when JM tripped in our livingroom, resulting in a nasty cut on the head (scalp wound, so lots of blood, etc.). When JMwas injected with pain-killer in preparation for sixteen stitches, JM screamed in pain.CK, horrified, cried inconsolably. ("I could feel how JM felt" was the commentmade later.) It would have been easy to be upset, wishing CK had not seen the whole"traumatic" event, or etc. But consider an event and discussion which occurredabout a year later:

CK asked me if I was familiar with two well-known bank robbers from theold American west (a tv program had mentioned them). When I said I had heard of them, CKasked if I had known that they had been brothers, and that one brother had killed theother. I said that I had not known that, and asked what CK thought about that. CK said,"I didn't know a brother could kill a brother." Then CK started to sob. It wasthe most upset I had seen this child since JM's cut head. I asked why CK was so upset. WasCK concerned that one of the children in our house might hurt or kill one of the others?No, CK just thought that the idea of a brother killing a brother was "horrible."We discussed the possibility that we are all brothers and sisters on the planet and thatpeople do, in fact, kill one another. We went from there to a discussion of the fact thateveryone's body eventually dies. In turn, the discussion moved to the possibility that,given the fact of death, perhaps the more interesting question might be, "What do youwant to do while you are alive?" I told CK I was really asking. CK thought fora few moments, then indicated a desire to help people. I said that was of course anecessity in order for anyone to have any kind of satisfying life at all, but HOW? Afterbrief thought, CK said, "Well, for example, if people were in a dark room, I couldbring them a light." CK was too young to have had any idea what this meant in asymbolic sense. We then discussed the difference between an essence and a"symbol." In turn, we talked about some of the ways a person might "bring alight" to others, at an essential level, without such things as candles orflashlights. The symbol for "bringing a light" which seemed most to resonate forCK involved music. CK knows quite well the contribution music can be to the quality ofpeople's lives, having both given and received gifts in this regard. CK is giftedmusically, and has often seen the effect, for example, of playing violin, cello or pianofor less-than-happy people. The experience of being present when JM cut his head and wasstitched deeply impressed CK with the fact that it matters when another person ishurting. You should see this child when CK plays music for people. He brings everythingto it. Precisely as though it matters, as though it may make a difference, bringing thoselistening closer to an experience of joy than pain, of light than dark.

As part of CK's home schooling participation, CK has been learning toplay three musical instruments. CK set out to practice all three instruments daily (as ofthis writing, not a day has been missed in over seven months). Practice time ranges fromabout 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours per day. Not that it is about watching the clock ... rather, itis "to CK's satisfaction" with each instrument. It is not about "getting CKto practice," or any such nonsense. Nor was it a parental suggestion that CK take upan instrument, or a second or a third. As happens around "purpose manifesting,"remarkable teachers have been drawn to CK. CK has played piano 4 years, violin 2 and cello1. As may be obvious, none of this is difficult on Mom and Dad. Mostly, we get to enjoythe music. There was, of course, that brief interlude during which CK managed to extricatea sound from a 1/4-size violin which seemed to be a parody of bagpipes. And there is thematter of driving to lessons, although whatever that asks of us is more than offset byseeing the intense relationship between CK and teachers who are as much as half a centuryolder, lessons which sometimes last up to two hours because neither teacher nor studenthas any inclination or willingness to stop.

Far from being "difficult," participation in CK's homeschooling is inspiring to all six of us in the family. Speaking for myself, CK inspires meto press forward with those things which are deeply self-expressive from my own point ofview. CK is six years old, by the way, our youngest.

A fellow from the phone company came to our home a few days ago toinstall an extra phone line so I could send this to you (we have not, until now, venturedonto the internet, etc.). We had a wonderful conversation going with him, and CK and JMplayed instruments for him during part of the time he was working. When he finished hisjob, he thanked them deeply. He explained that he is Seminole and that, to his people, itis considered a rare and beautiful gift for a human to be able to give the gift of musicto another. His eloquence in expressing obviously deeply-felt appreciation moved both JMand CK to tears. He asked me to follow him out to his truck, where he made a gift to eachof the children of a beautiful cedar-bead necklace. He said he had been moved to carry thetwo necklaces, but had not, until that afternoon, known why. JM and CK were again moved totears, and have worn the necklaces almost constantly, except during sleep.

4. Sometimes people are inclined to dismiss our experience with CK asthe exception to the rule, a function of CK's being "gifted." But CK is onlyfunctioning in the way all children - and adults! - are enabled to functionwhen the thing they came here to do, their purpose, is encouraged to flourish. CK hasgenuine gifts ... but gifts, in the truest sense of the word, only exist in thedomain of a child’s profound purpose. That is the only place children are ever"inspired." In the absence of participation in the domain of their profoundpurpose, the most children are likely to be is "interested" or"competent" or other words which are commonly used to describe lives lived in aless-than-miraculous space.

4.1. Example. Another of our children, L, is also home schooled. Someof L's main "homework" has been to attend the public schools. A gifted actor, Lshowed one of those "glints" at age 12, having noticed the possibility (during aclass which encouraged the writing of scripts) that "a person can write their ownscript in life!" Of course, at age 12, such an assertion shows up more like aninquiry than an answer. In pursuit of such an inquiry, what better place to observe humanscripts than a public high school?! This youngster, at age 15, travelled alone to Londonand studied acting at OperaFactory; at 16, was accepted into a program at The AmericanAcademy of Dramatic Arts and was off to live in mid-town Manhattan (again solo) for asummer. When a parent chooses to focus on a child's purpose and assist in bringing thatpurpose forward, that parent is released from bondage in such regards as "are [weparents] the best ones to do the teaching [of a particular subject matter] to thischild?" It gets the ego right out of the equation! With an eye toward purpose,the full resources of the community can be brought to bear. "Schooling," when itoccurs in the formal sense, need not only occur "in one's house." It becomesless important to be "the one" who teaches a particular child than to discernwho the perfect teacher(s) for a child might be.

Perhaps you will only "home school" one or two of yourchildren (now using the phrase "home school" in the way it is typically used,where education mostly occurs at the children's house). Wherever your child receives thevarious components of education, a parent can still remain totally responsible forthat education, and even accountable for such aspects as are appropriate. Ofcourse, this approach also opens the door to regular inquiry on the part of parents (andchildren!) as to where and with whom education might take place, for example, from oneyear to the next. This allows a wonderful flexibility, and takes into account the greatvariety of resources which can be tremendously useful to children's development at varioustimes during their educational process. It also gets past the nonsense that parents canonly treat their children "equally" if they provide a more or less"identical" experience for each child. I have seen many "homeschooling" parents "beating up on themselves" (mentally and emotionally)because, while they were absolutely called to "home school" one of theirchildren, they were not similarly moved with regard to another child or children. At somepoint, it is useful to hold the possibility that the highest expression of "treatingall children equally" may entail being equally discerning as to the best teacher(s)for any individual child at any point in their development!

JM and CK have shared a brilliant piano teacher, who told them that,eventually, their fingers should function on the keyboard like independent ballerinas.Some months ago, JM said, "It is almost as though my fingers have developedindependent brains." I said I could relate to that: as a youngster studying violin,it seemed my fingers had independent galoshes! I am definitely not the one to teach thesechildren anything in the domain "music" ... except perhaps appreciation.

Nor would I be the best person to teach L acting. L is not merely a"competent" actor; "inspired" is definitely the better word.Passionate. And, in turn, "highly intentional." Despite being popular, L choseto forego "partying" for a number of months prior to leaving for New York, inorder to work at a job which paid for most of the program and housing, and to read playsby such as George Bernard Shaw and Sam Shepard, to give L an "edge" in New York.It can accurately be said that, from L's point of view, L is 100% responsible for L's owneducation. Since we parents are also, from our own points of view, 100% responsible forL's education, we share an experience with our child which might best be referred to as"partnership." The partnership in which we participate occurs within the largercontext of purpose, which is, of course, larger than we are as individuals orcollectively. This approach also allows the assumption that there are other people outthere who are fully our "partners" in bringing purpose forward, whether or notthey happen to be "relatives."

At one point, L became "rebellious" about being trappedinside an "irrelevant" high school experience. We talked that afternoon aboutwhat L considered to be L's purpose. In short order, L noticed the possibility that theschool could simply be considered a resource which could forward that purpose,rather than an institution which had a purpose of its own which could swallow not only Lbut L's purpose itself. L's choice was to let the school know what it would take toforward L's purpose. In short order, the school agreed (this did not involve conversationsbetween parents and school ... L totally carried the ball) a structure could be createdwhich would allow L to graduate in 3 years instead of 4. L was willing to take advancedcollege math courses in order to achieve that goal, which would allow L's earliestpossible entry into a university with a spectacular performing arts program. L was able todo the demanding work required in the math program NOT because L is "gifted" inmath (merely talented or competent here). As has been said in many ways, the universealigns with purpose.

It seems too early to tell whether acting is a tributary in L's life orthe river itself. Perhaps L is having a deep experience of a metaphor which will allow Lto assist others in the creation of the most satisfying possible "scripts" intheir lives.

As parents, the issue could not be more straightforward. We could have,for example, created ourselves as substantially upset at the issues which were suddenly infront of our noses which I described above as "rebellion." But (as with myearlier account of CK's "trauma" in seeing JM's head wound): if your attentionstays on purpose, it can be noticed that events we (in our infamous "humanwisdom") deem "traumatic" or "rebellious" may have a totallyother, and perhaps extremely positive, import. In other words, we may enable ourselves tosee beyond those "realities" which are merely "apparent." Most of us,after all, were trained to first use our creative power to pick up a negative filter andthen stare out at life. If a person is committed to looking at life through a negativefilter, home schooling a child will not be a good idea. Of course, having a childmay also be problematic! Home schooling a child gets part of life right up in your face ona somewhat perpetual basis, a constant invitation to see life as negative. If we leave ourchildren's education to others, a lot of "content" will not be so "close tohome!" Which is one reason so many parents don't attend parent participation nightsat their children's schools. The greater the participation we choose with our children,the greater the likelihood of our encountering content in life which does not "fitour pictures," or seems negative in some other way. With L, for instance, there havebeen many incidents of trying out some new "script" which was not, to understateit, on our "approved script" list! "Purpose" gives an organizingprinciple around which it becomes more likely that we can see the possibility that thelives of our children are "working out!"

Like the rest of us, L is most assuredly here to attempt to "makea difference" in people's lives, including L's own. L is very bold in this, willingto go to great lengths (arguably even to be "at risk") in pursuit of making adifference. It was amazing to me how many people "reacted negatively" to thenotion of allowing so young a child to live, unaccompanied by a parent, in London and NewYork. Of course, they were simply viewing life's content through a negative filter. Isuggested to them that it might be more hazardous to attempt to intervene between L andthe existence which is, for L, so clearly purposeful. If we take the time to discern ourchildren's purpose and, in turn, allow their gifts to flourish in the soil of theirenthusiasm and joy, we increase the probability of seeing our children live inspiredlives. A life lived in such a way seems to draw to it an astonishing range of support,from the widest array of sources. Perhaps this is one reason "home schooling"has been, in our experience, such an easy thing in which to participate.

5. I have the thought that, if I speak of another of our children, Imay be seen as "bragging on our children," or some such. But what I amattempting to do here is brag on possibility! "Home schooling" did notarise, not really, because we Americans have a broken educational system. It has arisenbecause our system has done such a spectacular job that, having climbed up on the ladderit represents, we can see even further into the possibility of educating a human being,taking part in assisting each other ... including all our children, in making the biggestdifference it is possible for them to make while here on the planet. I was riding in thecar with JM about three years ago, after we had been out together for the evening. In anexpansive mood, and very much present to the joy of our relationship, I asked, "Doyou think there is any other [parent] and [child] who have as special a relationship as wedo?" In typical JM fashion, the response: "Well, if by 'as special' you mean 'asgood as,' I would say no, there are none. But if by 'as special' you mean ‘betterthan,’ I would say God and Jesus." I assure you, my friend who elicited thisletter with her question, I had not taught this to this youngster. (Whether I"should" have taught this to JM is an entirely other question ... but I had not... I suppose I might have, had I ever thought of it, but it had frankly never occurred tome to think of that relationship as a "role model" for parent-childrelationship!) Included in JM's very early reading was the version of Old and NewTestaments presented in The Beginner's Bible, from which had developed JM's conceptof "the ideal relationship between parent and child."

Another "glint" occurred when JM met John Henry Hodges, thatextraordinarily-committed-to-children ragtime piano player at "Coca-Cola Corner"in Disneyland. That meeting was the genesis of JM's musical studies (piano, 6 yrs., cello,2 ... JM, also musically gifted, was in turn an inspiration to CK). For JM, though, theenthralling thing was the amazing relationship which could be created between people withthe vehicle "music." Truly L's sibling, JM is interested in "scripts,"but with an emphasis on relationships which can be created.

For instance, we discussed how wonderful it was that Ted Seuss Geislhad used his life to write all those extraordinary stories which JM and other childrenhave enjoyed so greatly. We also talked about about how special it was that TSG had usedhis life to create himself as "Dr. Seuss!" At age 5, on being told of the deathof Ted Seuss Geisl, JM became quite teary-eyed. I don't think JM was aware of what"death" was ... I suspect, given our lives, JM thought (until then) that TSGwould of course (eventually) come to visit us, and that JM would be able to meet and talkwith him. JM stared off into space for a while, then said, "You know, when I getolder, I'm going to take his place." Within an astonishingly short time, JM was ableto read proficiently. JM's recent reading list (about three years' worth): TheAdventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Steinbeck'stranslation of Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Roots, the full Mallory; thenBarbara Tuchman's Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century; The CompleteSherlock Holmes; Travels with Charley; The Canterbury Tales; Troilus andCressida; The Iliad; The Odyssey; and JM is currently reading DonQuixote de la Mancha. My role? JM reads some of these to me, particularly when we aredriving from place to place. Humorously, JM has already read several books which Ipurchased years ago but never read (or never finished). It is a formerly-unimaginable giftto have them read to me by one of our children instead of having read them to myselfearlier!!!

Incidentally, it took almost nothing to teach JM to read. We sattogether some, but the motivation was so strong that JM caught on quickly. I suspect thatif we had not "gone with the flow" of JM's INTEREST, attempting instead to teachreading by using "children's books," we would still be working on"basics!" JM is nine now, by the way. We have learned that children chargethrough materials which forward the things they are passionate about ... certainlysomething that every good teacher knows, but equally certainly not the foundation uponwhich we have constructed the education of all children. For JM, if a book has somethingto say about what humans have created in the way of relationship, how it is available forus to participate and make a difference with one another, JM becomes deeply engaged withthat book. In a similar vein, JM is particularly interested in music through which peoplecan really connect with one another. JM had a fascinating discussion with one of JM'steachers in which JM expressed an unwillingness to spend time learning music which is nota thing of beauty to JM and to those for whom JM is playing the music. JM is flatly notinterested in the superficial, whether in literature or music, even if the more complexexpressions are, in theory, "over JM's head." A wonderful example of the factthat humans are not their minds but, rather, their spirits. JM's spirit is simply attunedto the complex fabric from which can be woven extraordinary relationship; thus, JM'srather "young" mind simply rises to the occasion.

I once overslept, and when I awoke I assumed CK (then age 2) would havea very wet diaper. When I asked, JM explained that they knew I had been "working hard and was very tired"....so JM (then age 5), had changed the diaper. JM proceeded tochange most of the non-poopy diapers until CK, mostly due to JM's gentle coaxing, waspotty-trained. At approximately the same age, JM pretty well took over the job of feedingCK until past the noon hour, specializing in various nutritional delights which did notrequire use of the stove. JM has continued to be quite self-expressive in participating inthe relationships which show up in the immediate vicinity. Our family is fascinated by whoJM might be becoming. There has been an early inclination toward musical composition andessay writing. It seems far too early, and certainly unnecessary, to reach strongconclusions. It is an amazing gift, though, to be able to watch JM's gifts emerge, and tobe able to be a resource toward the fulfillment of JM's purpose. Again, although we areutterly engaged in "home schooling" this child, it asks remarkably little of usto participate in JM's educational experience.

6. As a parent, you are in ideal position to be attuned to yourchildren's respective purposes. At least you are in ideal position if you can stay out ofthe trap of "how your children 'should' be!" Much more powerful: how arethey, really, and toward what purpose might they be that way?

I suspect, though I can "prove" it only by my own observations over a period of time, that profound purposes run in the same family,although they often manifest very differently from generation to generation and familymember to family member. Therefore, it is extremely important for you, as a parent, toknow what you are truly passionate about, what essential things you are deeplycommitted to. It has been amazing to me to notice how many people are aware of the"symbols" they have chosen toward making a difference, yet are utterlyunconscious of the essential commitments from which those symbolic choices are made. Inthis discussion, though, lies the possibility that it is truly not an accident that yourchildren were put around you, and that it may be available for you to play awonderful role in the development of their fullest possible self-expression while they arehere on the planet.

I have the thought I have gone on too long with this, so perhaps theselast comments can be taken up at another time. Also, remind me to tell you, if you areinterested, about P, our other child, and the emergence of the phrase "silentlyloud."

I hope I have succeeded in suggesting that "organizing yourday" need not be of great concern for you when you venture into home schooling. Whentheir purpose is allowed full play, children are as relentless as the ocean ... you do notneed to organize your day or even your life for the ocean to be the ocean or for yourchild to be who your child is. Instead, you will be able to choose the orientation youwould love to have to the surging energy, variously-manifesting as it tends to be, whichis the life of each of your children. Perhaps you will find yourself swimming in themiddle of that energy, as we do in the presence of JM or CK reading to us or playing theirinstruments, or attending one of L's plays or talking with L about the scripts beingencountered and tried on for size, or P creating the space of and demonstrating thepossibility "silently loud." At other times, you may choose to stand somewhatapart, as one might when watching the ocean from the shore. The joy, though, is immensewhen your pole star is participation with your children in furtherance of the emergence oftheir respective purposes ... and even your own.


P.S. - We would love to hear from you, or from others you know who areinterested in such ideas as these. In the event such "others" are not yetonline, they are welcome to write to us at our "snail mail" address: J. Rice,4229 E. Winnetka, Phoenix, Arizona 85044.


We can be reached online at: JRice43497@aol.com



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