Hello, I’m Laura. Today I’m going to talk to you about what I think is the key to conquering all your teaching challenges. And all of the different curriculums and teaching or learning styles will have minimal impact if you neglect this.
Without attending to this, without figuring this out, then learning is very likely to be dry, disconnected, lacking in direction and meaning. In a nutshell, you need to know the difference between principles and tactics.
I want to start with a story of when I was in college and I began having debilitating gut pain. It occurred at random times with increasing frequency. Before you jump to any conclusions about stress related to college, let me point out that I was always an easy student. I mean, school was easy for me, for what ever that’s worth.
I’m not bragging, because I think that I didn’t learn a lot I could have. I learned how to work the system because I was just motivated to get A’s. And I did like learning, but the whole point of this is that: it was not that I didn’t like the college situation. I enjoyed it!
But this gut pain was really starting to interfere with my life and I finally went to see a doctor who ordered a colonoscopy. The diagnosis was that I had “kinky bowels.” Everything else looked good.
And I will be forever grateful to this doctor, that he was not eager to diagnose me with something else or put me on medicines or put me through multiple surgeries. At this point in my life, I trusted the medical profession much more than I do now.
(And let me add a parentheses here: I think that many of them have good intentions, but they are trained to look at medical problems and to deal with them a certain way. And end up being motivated by wrong things. So, I don’t trust them quite the same anymore.)
But in this particular case, I could have ended up on various drugs and undergoing surgery to treat the problem and very likely ended up in worse trouble than when I started. If memory serves me correctly, the most advice I got from the doctor was a list of foods that might cause more of a problem for what he was calling a kinky bowel. And he sent me on my way!
But I still had a problem.
Fast forward, just about 5 years, and I was beginning to associate the episodes with stress, but it wasn’t a clear connection and it probably wasn’t the way you think it was.
For one thing, I didn’t feel stressed. So, after those few years of trying various tactics to treat or deal with this pain that kept recurring, the key to me figuring it out was that I became more fully aware of living life according to principles – instead of just responding to the next problem.
Maybe at the end I will explain more of exactly how I did that, but for now, let me just say that Life is a Series of Problems. Partly in the sense that this is a fallen world in which we are trying to survive. But partly in the sense that even when we are trying to do things we like or are trying to be creative we are looking for answers or solutions. We are trying to discover things.
If we have some basic, foundational principles that we have worked out, that are meaningful to us, then this will guide our tactics in extremely useful ways. And this applies to how we teach and guide our children in their own learning and problem solving.
Unfortunately, in the nearly 34 plus years that I have been observing the outcomes of many homeschool families, I find that many parents are very disappointed in their outcomes.
Now don’t get me wrong – teaching at home is still considerably better than an institutional setting, because anything is better than prison! But few parents seem to be as happy with their results as I am.
And I think it boils down to principles.
I’d like to present the idea of principles as 3 layers:
The first layer is you have to start with knowing or admitting or realizing that principles are foundational to giving the proper direction to things. It’s sort of like putting the soil in your garden bed before you plant the seed. You have to at least admit that there needs to be a place for these things to grow – and not until you have established these principles are teaching tactics going to result in satisfying outcomes. If you were to plant your garden on a bed of rocks, it’s not going to work very well.
I’m going to give you a very recent example: the whole current pandemic thing that’s been going on for the last couple of years has been a total flop because it’s been based on tactics – partly propaganda tactics – but tactics nevertheless, that are not based on any principles that are really firmly grounded in epidemiology or principles of health that we have known for many, many years.
The next layer in this idea about principles is knowing how to decide what your principles are.
And the third piece of the trifecta, or layer, is knowing how to use the principles to inform your tactics. Once you figure out your core principles, tactics won’t necessarily always be easy, but you will have a flow to problem solving. You won’t spend so much time and anguish wondering what you should do. Your decisions will surely go step by step to where your principles are satisfied.
Many people are in financial trouble because they budget by tactics, which tend to be shorter term, instead of principles, which lead to longer term evaluation and good habits.
Many health concerns are not dealt with because tactics are not inclusive or inspiring.
And many relationships flounder because someone thinks too much in terms of tactics – to get this result or avoid that one – instead of the principles that lead to nurturing a relationship.
As for my gut pain, shortly after I zeroed in on some principles of living, I unexpectedly gained insight into my God-given personality. The principles led to the insights which now showed me what tactics to use to approach life in a way that my pain all but disappeared!
When I say “all but disappeared” I mean that I rarely have it, like every several years, possibly, and only for a very short time. And then I am reminded of what I have learned and I can apply the tactics based on the principles.
It’s not mystical or anything related to self-therapy, but if you want to know more, I suggest you sign up for my The Happy Homeschool Dangerously Helpful Homeschool Dispatch email newsletter. And then you’ll be the first to know about the monthly newsletter that I’m trying to put together – because that’s the kind of place where I’m going to go into more detail about all of these things.
But just a little bit more about principles:
Principles may seem broad in some ways, but they are really very personal. As such, they illuminate corners and uncover pathways. They guide the soul to know itself in honest, humble, and unselfish ways.
And if that is happening, you will be on your way to learning and teaching in ways that will get you the results that you are looking for.
In other words, principles tend to cut through the lies we tell ourselves or that others try to tell us and get to the core of what really needs to be done.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion today! Thanks for listening and see you next time!