After my review on Upgrade, by Kevin Swanson I was asked how this book impacted my life so I’ll attempt to share my thoughts here.

Upgrade! How it helped me.

I’ve already written a review so I won’t rehash that so I’ll approach it from another angle without rewriting the entire book!

Kevin Swanson devoted one whole chapter to ‘education’. I like this as it is helpful to know what the goal is before we attempt to formulate a plan toward aiming for it.

“Education is the preparation of the child, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically for life and for eternity.” (p10) He then writes in the broader sense.
He says that each worldview will affect our understanding of education (see why I like it?) He then pulls apart his own definition by explaining ‘preparation‘: preparation for what? He also questions (and answers) the concept of a ‘successful education’. He gives another definition of a successful education on page 17 “A successful education is achieved when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child’s calling.”

Education is the preparation of the child, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically for life and for eternity.

Then he writes 10 Secrets for a Successful Education, which aren’t really secrets at all. 😉
The first secret is on the Pre-Eminence of Character. Now all CM enthusiasts agree on this but he brings out a point which allowed or encouraged me to change my first character training habit from that of developing ‘Attention’ to Honour of Parents (duh!)

The 2nd secret is Quality One on One Instruction. This really spoke to me as my homeschool methodology had me focusing on good books. Now this is a good and worthwhile habit but it cannot and must not take place of quality one on one instruction. Of course some subjects take more individual instruction than others, like Math’s, (which I had to learn the hard way). He gave me a focus point of one hour per day for 2 full years with each child. (p47)

The 3rd secret is the Principle of Protection.
He says that protection is itself is ineffective but combined with a purpose of preparation is effective (p52). To be prepared, a child ought to be protected?all this with an identity or individual focus! He talks about monitoring the inputs and controlling the inputs that the children are exposed to. He warns of the dangers when protection becomes an end in itself:

1) the child might try to escape the world
2) amalgamate with the world and become like it or
3) change the world

The Principle of Individuality is the 4th secret and he talks about our children as individuals. This wasn’t new to me but he brought out some interesting points. The principle of individuality is liberating, so Mr. Swanson says. It can be wielded with amazing adaptability and effectiveness in the home and removes a tremendous amount of pressure from the backs of children and parents. He suggests that this principle takes the individual gifts and abilities of each child and maximizes them. This often means that a homeschool moves away from standardization. He goes on to say that this principle holds profound implications for the involvement of the state in education.

The 5th secret is Rooting in Relationships.
Mr. Swanson puts forth that every child is an individual with individual learning styles and rates and emotional concerns. An educational program will only be optimized for each child by a mentor who knows the child well. He states that studies have shown that there is no difference between the academic performance of students whose parents are professionally trained teachers and those who are not. He attributes this to the God-designed factor of relationship based teaching. In this lengthy chapter, he also discusses the issue of delegation… delegation while still retaining responsibility.

A successful education is achieved when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child’s calling.

The Principle of Doing Well is the 6th secret.
Charlotte Mason enthusiasts would know this one! The main aim of education is to communicate so he encourages us to do this well. Reading and writing is fundamental. He then gives 10 focus points which I found beneficial:
1) read aloud
2) the best literature
3) don’t waste significant time doing anything but the basics
4) do not multiple the course requirements upon the student (this one hit me hard)
5) memorise portions of the highest quality literature, poetry, drama, and prose.
6) Copywork is a valuable tool
7) It is advantageous to teach them the languages of Hebrew, Greek an Latin once they are advanced in their own native language.
8) Don’t advance a student to the next level until he has mastered the basics
9) Basic learning required disciplined repetition
10) Teach the Scriptures

Reading, thinking, (verbal and written) communication, discernment and singing are basic fundamentals.

The 7th secret is the Principle of Life Integration
He writes of the difference between knowledge and wisdom… about life integration and the best way to do this is to maintain a life integrating educational environment. He encourages the reader to avoid the separation of school and life (yet he is not an unschooler). The student must have real lie experiences on which to hang the knowledge that he learns from the textbook else the textbook learning just becomes head knowledge and not wisdom or understanding. He gives another more tips like:

1) Tie their textbooks learning to real life..
2) Limit the time they spend listening to lectures.
3) Build relationships and spend time doing the important things?take the children with you everywhere.
4) Train your children to think and communicate all the time
5) Train them to be able to interact with others well
6) Encourage them to start their own business or work with you
7) Prefer hands-on training, develop a learning environment
8) Use curriculum that understands the importance of real life application.

Maintaining the Honour and Mystique of Learning is the 8th secret.
We should strive to cultivate a sense of wonder. This can be stifled if we don?t take into account the principles of individual character, etc.
Modeling a sense of adventure, self motivated learning and spontaneity while encouraging the inquisitive mind is important. Avoid activities that mesmerize yet don?t encourage wonder and discovery. He also talks about honouring and commending true achievement and achievements. Children need affirmation.

Building on the Right Foundation is the 9th secret and it deals with the content of education.
Again this chapter deals with worldview … the big questions of life. As parents we need to know what are children are learning and at the least we need to discern the worldview that under girds the books we use. In this we need to know and discern the difference between polytheism, monotheism, relativism, absolute truth, atheism, humanism, biblical theism, nihilism and those that have a providential view of history. (I’ve found that the need for understanding this, increases as the child gets older)

He says that that there is no neutrality in books or programs (see why I like this book?). God’s word must be tied into every aspect of our child’s experience be it entertainment, history, geography, science, music or reading… we must train our children to think in terms of God’s world. This doesn’t mean that every book so sentence must have God in it rather that our children must learn to see the connection to God in all that they do.

1) know your worldview
2) know what your children are learning
3) accept that there is no perfect curriculum
4) think ?integration?
5) use principles of protection and wise progression
The 10th secret of the Principle of Wise, Sequential Progression.

This chapter talks about the stages of learningknowledge (collection and storage of facts), understanding (discernment and arrangement of facts) and wisdom (application of those things). He warns us to beware of programs that only spit out facts or information all the way through high school. It’s important to learn the basics well but also important to progress toward critical thinking and wise independent problem solving.

Chapter 13 talks about developing a vision for your family: where to start, how to get there, etc.

These are the areas that helped me in my family. While not necessarily new to me they condensed and highlighted all the information in my own knowledge bank so that much of could become practical and I could apply it to my life. So many things cry out for our attention yet not all are necessary. They may be good but not necessary.

Don’t take my word for it though…rush out and get your own copy! These points are just what I took from the books…I haven’t done a complete chapter review, I’ve tried to speak more personally.