“Hey, did you guys know that this breakfast counts as part of your school for the day?” Their eyes lit up like Christmas lights on a house the day after Thanksgiving! “Yep!” I confirmed. “Sure does.” 

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Watching my kids all play chess the other morning while eating their morning cereal reminded me once again that there is quite a big difference between education and “school.” I’ll admit, as the games lingered on and the refills on the morning crunchiness continued, I was terribly tempted to announce, “Ok, kids, put the chess away. It’s time to start school.” But as soon as I had the though I mentally scolded myself. ‘Where did THAT thought come from?! Surely, I’ve learned by now that education is ongoing and all around us. Why would I want to steal away their time and send a mixed signal that this isn’t somehow legit, or that “school” is somehow more important?’  I sat and smiled instead and kept to myself for a bit. Nathan was closing in on a check-mate. It was getting interesting. I came to some peace about letting them play awhile longer before they started what “I” had planned for the day. And I decided to announce quite the opposite of my first line of thinking — “Hey, did you guys know that this breakfast counts as part of your school for the day?” Their eyes lit up like Christmas lights on a house the day after Thanksgiving! “Yep!” I confirmed. “Sure does.” Our kids are pretty used to a lifestyle of learning approach to things. But they still get the “school” vibes from all around. And we still get tempted to compartmentalize and systemitize that which happens quite literally ALL the time — i.e. education. So it’s no wonder they were excited to find out I wasn’t going to rush them off to the academic to-do list for the day. I was quite refreshed to have pushed through my old habits once again and enjoy the last few rounds of chess…..and cereal.

Why is it that we tend to think “school” is a “thing” that happens during a certain time, at a certain place, and in a certain sequence of events? Sometimes, but not often, the word school is used to mean something outside the form and structure, as in when they coach shouts, “Boys, I’m about school all of ya’ll!” In this case school means “to teach.” But look up “school” in a dictionary and it’s defined as:

“An institution where instruction is given, especially to persons under college age.”

Now look at the definition for “education:”

“The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”  

I ask you, do we just want our kids to “finish school?” Or do we want them to receive an education? Truth is a lot of us finished “school” and didn’t feel all that educated. I know I didn’t. My only education in “school” was developing enough power of reasoning and judgement to learn how I could get out of “school” the quickest and with the least amount of pain and effort.

I really needed this reminder today. I’ve decided I’m going to print off these two definitions and hang them in what we call our “school room.” (I know, ironic isn’t it?) But seriously, here’s a .pdf of education if you would like to print it for yourself: EDUCATION. (Or download the Word doc: education definition.) And here is the definition of SCHOOL as well (and the Word Doc download school).

Now that these two signs are hanging in plain sight as a reminder, we’re off to make leaning fun. Sure, there’s “work” to do and there are required lessons to complete. But we are swinging the doors wide open on this year and calling everything with learning value part of “school.” So far, our kids love it! If I can’t get the word “school” out of our vocabulary at least we can redefine it to include everything else that is legitimate learning!

Math at the grocery store = “school!”

Map reading on a trip = “school!”

Conversion in the kitchen = “school!”

Chess while eating cereal = “school.”

May God bless your year and may your “school” year be a year full of exciting new discoveries and great memories as we learn right along our children.