Lifestyle of Learning
By Marilyn Howshall
Developer of the Lifestyle of Learning Approach to Home
Education and Author of Wisdom's Way of Learning
Defining Lifestyle of Learning and its Goals
Lifestyle of Learning - an intriguing expression - one that captures the heart and mind and maybe 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 is an expression that still requires a more thorough definition.
The reason for this is that in our traditional educational system, the activity of learning has been distorted from its true nature to look like something one 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. Learning as a lifestyle is not just a nice idea to incorporate into your existing lifestyle or even into your existing educational program in a last-ditch attempt to upgrade or redeem them somehow. Rather, it is truly a change-of-lifestyle issue.
Many moms struggle to find a way to motivate their children 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 "things" are what make up their lifestyle. Many are found watching too much television, playing video games, hanging around idle. Perpetually riding bikes around the neighborhood, and playing with useless toys.
A child who perpetually buries himself in novels as a means of escape can also be included in this category. Children will be found antagonizing each other instead of being helpful toward one another. Mom is little more than a chauffeur in her effort to get her kids to various learning opportunities she thinks are necessary for their education. 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 lifestyles.
Then what is a "lifestyle of learning"? First, parents must become honest about their own educations and commit to acquiring a self-discipled
education in order to model one for their own children. They must become homeschooled themselves. If not, they will be forced to reproduce in their children's lives the same old, worn-out education they were given.
Second, they must commit to a steady increase of the quality of their family's lifestyle. When you increase the quality of your lifestyle activities, you open the door for learning opportunities to come into your home. The fuller your lifestyle becomes with real life and worthwhile activity, the easier homeschooling becomes. In time, learning as a lifestyle will become your whole life.
A happy result of a lifestyle of learning is that you are free to enjoy homeschooling and life as they leave their compartmentalized time slots and become one. A lifestyle of learning is a lifestyle rich in high quality, real-life interests and activities that are directed in such a way that they, cumulatively will produce an 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 " is to define its goals. In this way the hoped-for fruit, too, will be defined and will be quite different in nature from the fruit of traditional education, even that which is being produced in many homeschools today. And what produces the differences between traditional education and a lifestyle of
learning? Biblical principles for living, learning, and discipling of children.
Primary Goals for a Biblical Lifestyle of Learning:
First, it disciples children to Jesus and prepares them for definable life-purpose, by God's design for them, while they are young and before graduation.
Second, in order to facilitate the first goal, a love of learning must be developed in children and must continue to prevail in their lives, even throughout adolescence.
Thirdly, the child must be equipped with learning tools from a young age so that the first two goals may be achieved. Again the three goals are:
1. student is discipled to Jesus and to a definable life-purpose;
2. student possesses a love of learning; and...
3. student is equipped with the learning tools needed to pursue a vital and deepening learning process throughout childhood that will continue into adulthood.
These may seem to be simple and even popular ideals, but many parents continue to violate the very principles that would help them to realize these goals. In addition, the very system parents embrace with which to accomplish their goals for homeschooling is not only not designed to meet even one of these three goals, it is actually counterproductive to them, possessing a different agenda altogether.
The path with which godly goals are reached will make the educational process look very very different from what we are familiar and comfortable with. Our plan must include focused attention not only on the academia '"school" side of life but even more importantly, focus must be directed toward the lifestyle of the family and each of its members. Parents must be willing to begin to evaluate how their children are choosing to spend their spare time and acknowledging the truth that their choices are a direct reflection of their character, and thus, a direct reflection of their true education.
With these definitions and goals in mind, we will proceed with the presentation of biblical principles that will help to shape a
"biblical natural learning" mindset.
The Biblical S.A.T.'s
In our society's educational system, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (S.A.T.) is given to students to determine their knowledge and skill achievement. The test is designed to complement the learning approach commonly used in classrooms across the nation and to reflect the knowledge that millions of children are learning. It is also intended to measure a student's progress, not only with himself, but with others as well. The purpose of the test is to determine if the student is learning what is being presented
to him through the school's curriculum.
What the test
actually proves is whether or not the student has retained in his data memory bank the millions of bits and pieces of information that he has been fed. In other words, the test determines if he has been attending school and if he has a good memory.
The test does not show if the student is being equipped for any definable purpose, if he wants to learn, or if he knows how to learn, remember our three lifestyle of learning goals?
If, in fact, the student is truly learning, it simply proves that these components are in place in his real life in spite of the system he is thrust into for twelve years of his life. If there were such a test to determine if these components were present, it would need to show that they were interactively, equally, and pervasively operating in the student's life. When the learning process reflects all three components it is then alive and valid.
More officially speaking, we can say that our lifestyle of learning goals are the science, art, and tools of learning. They make up what I call the Biblical S.A.T's
of Learning. The S.A.T.'s present a complete picture of what a healthy learning process should look like. These three components are common in all areas of knowledge including the field of learning, the academic subjects, and even the Christian walk.
Our purpose in this article is to closely examine these three components of
learning - first, with a general definition of the S.A.T.'s as they could relate to any
subject; second, more specifically as they relate to a few familiar subject areas to see what they took like with and without a healthy representation of the S.A.T.'s; and finally, we will look more thoroughly at the S.A.T's in light of the subject of learning and our three lifestyle of learning goals.
The SCIENCE of any Subject: The science includes the theory or general collection of principles, as well as leading truths and knowledge relative to the subject. It also includes the technical aspects of the subject, and the process principles that make it work. The science has no personality or life of its own. It is simply a system.
The ART of any Subject: The art includes the skillful practice of the principles pertaining to the subject, and the artful application of the process. The art or activity of the subject should reflect the unique personality, thought process, and conclusions of the one applying the science. The art is the actual heart of the subject where individual expression is demonstrated. It possesses life and passion.
The TOOLS of any Subject: The tools are the means with which to put the science theory into artful practice. Each subject has its own unique set of tools. Tools help to put a thing together, to create what will be useful or appreciated. When used skillfully, tools will produce a useful product. It is absolutely imperative that the S.A.T.'s work
inter-relatedly in the learning process. If not, you will have a sick system.
The S.A.T.'s of Music
An individual can read all about the theory (science) of music and how it works, but possessing the knowledge of music theory alone will not make that individual a musician, nor will music theory possess any life of its own. Theory has no ability to bring forth music.
The art of the subject of music is the practical application of the theory. The art is active in nature and breathes life and personality into music theory. Music practice combined with understanding of music theory will produce music and make one a musician. However, in order to artfully apply the theory of music, a tool is needed. To bring the theory of music into an artful display of sound, one needs a musical instrument. When an instrument is played skillfully, music is then being made. The artful application of theory will require an element of delight to be present in the individual if he is to become a true musician. As a
result, his developed skill will increase his joy and delight.
The S.A.T.'s of Cooking
Procedural principles relative to cooking are included in the science of this subject. However, learning the knowledge does not make a good cook. Many newly married husbands could attest to the fact that owning a cookbook does not make his bride a good cook. She must learn how to artfully apply the knowledge using the tools specifically designed for each individual task. The one who knows how to cook is going to enjoy cooking more than the one who continues to go through the motions or just make do.
The S.A.T.'s of Carpentry
The product of the amateur carpenter will be rough without a prior understanding of how things fit together. The theory of carpentry along with the skillful application of carpenter's tools
is what will actually produce a product. The product will be the tangible object that the carpenter built and also the intangible development and maturing of his skills. Developed skill will increase delight in the craft.
The S.A.T.'s of the Christian Walk
A parallel example can be seen in how some people approach their Christian walk.
Extracting principles from the Word of God to create legalistic, lifeless systems of
"do's and don't's" reduces Christianity to a mere science ~ a lifeless procedure of steps or a system of "have-to's."
They might have some knowledge of principles and may even be trying to live them, but without the Holy Spirit breathing life into those truths, are they really
true? Without the art, the science is dead, "...for the letter (science) kills but the Spirit (art) gives life" (II Corinthians 3:6).
When the approach is only mechanical and functional, a Christian
(student) will not enjoy his walk with God. Nor does his Father (Teacher) appreciate mechanical
efforts, for "...without faith it is impossible to please Him." (Hebrews 11:6).
Following a lifeless procedure of methodical steps, adhering to all the do's and don'ts does not require a scrap of faith. It is all very secure, but when it does not work, the system becomes the scapegoat when instead the
individual was at fault for not listening to God in the first place!
God talks to real human beings ~ not robots. God calls us to "be still and know that I am
God." (Psalm 46: 10). Attempting to apply biblical principles (science) without the life, understanding, and freedom of the Holy Spirit (art) will simply keep an individual in bondage and produce failure in his walk.
There is one primary tool God uses in our lives to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
The Christian's tool is a yielded heart to which God can impart His wisdom. Without the ongoing heart-search, the Christian does everything but the one thing that represents the Christian
faith ~ he neglects to develop a relationship with God. It is only the surrendered life that produces life (John 5:39, 40).
Elements of the S.A.T.'s of Learning that are
Unique to a Lifestyle of Learning
Science of Learning - LOL Goal
# I - Student is Discipled
to Jesus and to a Definable Life-Purpose
The science component of learning is divided into two categories, the process (how) and product (what) of learning. Together they give us the theory of learning - only one-third of what is needed to produce a quality education. Educational experts give us many principles,
procedures, techniques, and strategies with which to teach our children knowledge. However, this focus on the science of
learning is often at the expense of the art or heart of learning and the equipping of the student with his own skillful use of learning tools.
In the arena of traditional education, the chosen learning approach heavily emphasizes the text/workbook method for the collecting, processing, and communicating of knowledge. Traditional methods stress the product of learning almost to the exclusion of the process. This renders the learning process nearly lifeless because the art of learning is not reflected.
When the product is achieved through a text/workbook method, the process is dramatically shortened. The goal is to get through content as quickly as possible. Reading a chapter (collecting) and remembering it (processing) long enough to answer the questions or pass a test (communicating) is an inferior, boring, and lifeless way to learn. The three-stage learning process may be in operation, but without vital life-giving qualities (art) present in the process, we simply have a mechanical system that will not lead to our goals.
Remember our three aforementioned goals? Lifestyle of Learning goals are very different from traditional education. Its system will not enable us to meet them. This is where traditional education beams 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, it was not founded on Jesus Christ. It had no chance of standing.
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 choose to proceed and whether or not we are aware of the condition of the system we use if we only wish to prepare our children in general ways. But, 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, gaining little ground and producing little to no good fruit for all of our expended efforts. The science of learning (product and process), therefore, will be a direct reflection of the nature of our goals. A new product in our children and a new process by which they get there is what we are after.
So, instead of operating within the traditional age-graded system, I designed a new system that will easily facilitate the meeting of student-delight-directed, as well
as mom-directed lifestyle of learning goals.
The Biblical Lifestyle of Learning Framework consists of four seasons. They are derived from the three simple learning stages that pattern a child's growth and development: the collecting, processing, and communicating of knowledge. A preparing stage has been added. When the three-stage process is in action, it indicates that learning activity is present.
However, it is important to determine who is doing the collecting, processing, and communicating of
knowledge - the student or the teacher? The one who is engaged in the three activities is the one who is learning. If a student is being spoon-fed from someone else's study, he is not learning very much.
To replace the text/workbook/lecture approach to the learning process, I developed two natural study models for a lifestyle of learning that will facilitate both informal and formal learning experiences. The learning approaches are called
- for child and parent-directed informal learning from childhood throughout
Life Message Approach
- for formal learning from adolescence throughout adulthood
Each approach consists of its own unique set of four natural learning models that build on and complete each other. Each approach will bring vision to constrain us and the needed order and
goal-setting direction to help us plan our way in a biblical lifestyle of learning approach.
The product and the process of learning (science) must be balanced with the art and tools of learning. Here again, traditional education is greatly lacking. The presence or the absence (within the student's life) of the art and tools of learning will prove whether or not he is truly learning and where he is headed with his education.
Art of Learning - LOL Goal # 2 - Student Develops a Love of Learning
Remember our cooking example? Our society's common methods to induce learning are somewhat like letting children read cookbooks and look at the tools of cooking without ever let-ting them practice the art or skill of cooking. They get to do everything but learn how to cook. Without the art of cooking there will be no meals-nothing to eat. Likewise, without knowing how to learn there will be no learning, nothing to "eat." Are our children eating and actively engaged in the learning process or are they watching a television cooking show? This is not exciting for the would-be cook, nor is it exciting for the would-be student.
Just like the cook, a true learner will possess a love of learning. He does not merely read directions and go through the motions, but has varied, creative ways of approaching his task able to produce a product that reflects his personality. His developing ability to learn on his own will bring him great joy and a deep sense of accomplishment. "Art" is the very essence of any field. Art will always suggest that human creativity is present in the process, in addition to skill, individual
personality, productivity, and delight.
The art will be Spirit-breathed and living. It releases us to be Spirit-led in our application of theory and principle,
producing life-giving opportunities for character training and heart-monitoring of our children. There is a simple way to determine whether or not the art of learning is actively present in a student's life.
I have uncovered seven qualities that must be collectively working that will show the presence of the art of teaming.
They are what I call the Seven Natural Vital Signs of the Learning Process
and they are: individual, delight-directed, life-related, valuably active, productive, self-motivated,
and focused. These life-giving elements must be evident throughout not only the student's individual learning process, but
in his lifestyle of chosen activity as well. In fact, this is the best place to begin making needed
changes - in the child's free time. The vital signs are like little lights that you can hold up over every part of yours and your children's lives to examine and monitor the quality of your lifestyle activities. Typically, the vital signs do not play a role in the traditional learning process.
Tools of Learning-LOL Goal #3-Student is Equipped with Tools of Learning
The traditional approach also reflects the absence of the student's command of learning tools. The Five Learning Tools are research, reason, relate, record, and rhetoric. Possessing a good command of these tools will aid a student in acquiring an education. In the traditional system the student remains in a passive role doing little, if any, real learning. He is not taught how to use the very tools that will equip him for a lifelong adventure in learning. The learning tools can be applied to any field or area of thought and are adaptable to all learning tasks, whether
an informal or formal means of study is pursued. In fact, when the aforementioned two learning models (Unit-of-Life and Life-Message Approaches) are consistently being used, all five of the learning tools are equally
being developed in the student's life.
When a student is truly learning, he actively and consistently embraces an area of interest (science) that will lead him in a process (science) that reflects his individual expression and character development (art). He will apply the use of learning tools in a variety of informal as well as formal ways. In view of all the three components of learning (S.A.T.'s), it is easy to see how dead our traditional learning methods have become. We need to renew our minds to God's truth about learning, for it is only with a new mindset that we will be able to carry out God's plan freely and confidently.
Rearing godly children who hunger and thirst for a living God will require a living educational process. We need to be aware of the serious educational gap that is created when even one of these components is not present in a child's learning process. Once the components are present, it becomes a matter of quality-control of the learning process that the parent will continue to determine and monitor.
It is important to remember that the biblical learning process can not be reduced to a mere collection of multiple choice questions for the student to answer in order to prove he is learning. Can an appraisal be made of an individual's Christian walk based upon his possession of biblical knowledge? Instead, an examination of the Christian's chosen activities, his heart condition, and of his character are the means to determine if he is engaged in a vital discipleship process. Likewise, an examination of how the student is made to learn, the student's real
life - his chosen activities will measure his character, and thus, his learning process. The Biblical Science, Art, and Tools of Learning provide a thorough means by which we can evaluate our children's true education.
Let us for a moment consider the problems confronting us as Christian homeschoolers. We come from a generation that was not taught how to learn. Few Christians know how to access the Word of God for themselves and fewer still know how to access the Lord for themselves in an intimate way. Many parents were, themselves, not given a love of learning as children and are now
lacking in purpose, and training their own children in the same way.
With only the raw material of our fragmented lives to work with, we attempt to implement our new godly desires and goals into our existing lifestyles and systems. In so doing, we create an additional problem-burn-out!
We use the world's methods and means to produce something they were not designed to produce. When we finally accept the truth that the old 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, a new system - and a fresh beginning for the entire family.
My hope is to encourage you with practical solutions to common problems that will propel you into a higher level of understanding about education and a wonderful new homeschool adventure. I also wish to challenge you to seek God for your homeschool. His burden is easy, His yoke is light. He said, "Are you
tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message Bible)
If you desire additional information about the
Lifestyle of Learning
Framework, the Unit-of Life Approach,
Approach, the Seven Natural Vital Signs of the Learning
Tools, and other biblical principles for a Lifestyle of
may purchase the
4-book-set Wisdom's Way of Learning by
is devoted to explaining and developing these concepts.
of this article were excerpted from Wisdom 's Way
copyright 1994 by Marilyn Howshall
and used with permission.
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