Keeping in mind the caution to let systems be servants rather than masters, here are some truths I pulled from The Student Whisperer. I have more principles to pull out of the book-- lots of good stuff in there-- but I want to keep my posts somewhat short, so I'll continue in installments. (For previous posts, type "student whisperer" in the search field in the top left corner of this page.)
1. We have mentors from a variety of sources throughout our lives: In the comments of a previous post, my friend Kay brought up a point that fits well here: “We should have many teachers and read from many books (also our teachers) and set out that full banquet before us and our children.” It appears that Ms. Earle feels the same way. In one place, she says, “Stories tell it all,” meaning that we are taught truth and virtue by the stories we read, whether of history or philosophy or science or imaginative tales. I want to be careful to point this out, because in the “application” portion of the book, she gets very particular about formal mentoring, and it would be easy to assume that one person-- a formal mentor-- ought to be a person’s Guru. That would be a bad thing, unless that Person is Christ.
2. Real-life mentors can help you see past your blind spots: Ms. Earle challenges her readers to think about the mentors in their own lives, and while I have not actually done any of the activities in the book, I did consider my own mentors. When I think about it, I am filled with wonder at my life. I homeschool my children and run my own business, two risky endeavors. But it is because of my real-life mentors—wise, undaunted people who speak into my life. They encourage me to take risks because I am a cautious person by nature. I also tend to be cautious about influencing my children. I don’t want them to feel that they have to ‘be’ something for me. I am not God, and cannot see all facets of their personalities and abilities, all the possibilities for their lives. But at the same time, I want to be that wise, undaunted person that encourages them to grow into the full-fledged people God intended them to be. I want to help them see past their blind spots.
3. Children (and adults, for that matter) “must stand or fall by their own efforts”: In the era of participation awards, the Nanny State, and corporations that are “too big to fail”, I am afraid we have sadly forgotten this principle. The above quote is from Charlotte Mason, but Ms. Earle echoes it in her struggle to teach her son to pick up his belongings. He finally succeeds when she allows him the freedom to fail. This does not mean that we throw our kids to the wolves. But we mustn’t stand in the way of logical (and sometimes natural) consequences.
4. Peers are mentors: This is a fact, for good or ill. Our older kids have a natural desire to be around friends, and their peers WILL influence them. The pressure our kids feel from age mates can be used “for goodness, for nobility, for excitement to learn” or “to fit into the crowd or to do drugs, or to waste time…” We adults must help to establish a peer environment “where there is pressure to become someone good, knowledgeable, courageous and wise. Where the pressure is love.” This is one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book. I want to learn how to establish proper atmosphere for my older kids and their friends.