Relationship's Importance

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Testimony by Christi Faagau
Coupeville, WA ~ August 3, 2010

Lifestyle of Learning™ teaches that "we use our children's education as a means to form their character, making Christlike character the central goal their education serves." I love that description of Lifestyle of Learning™.

I have always said that my ultimate goal for my children was their Christlike character. Though this goal sounded good, I didn't truly understand what it looked like to practically achieve it. If I had understood correctly, then our home and education would have looked much differently. 

I thought I was providing a lifestyle of learning environment for my kids. I had read all of Marilyn Howshall's materials over and over again, and every time, my eyes were opened to something new. But one of the things that I was never able to fully wrap my mind around was the importance of relationships in the educational process.

Marilyn said again and again that "relationship is life's most central lesson," but I didn't get it. I didn't understand what she meant when she talked about a person relating with their own learning process of growth and development. I also didn't realize the importance of addressing the way my family related with each other. 

I wondered how relationships could have anything to do with education. That didn't make any sense to me. So what did I do? Well, to be honest, I just skipped that part and read on. There is so much meat in each of the little books [supplemental books to Wisdom's Way of Learning] that I figured I would be able to get the gist of the whole Lifestyle of Learning™ message if I was able to understand the parts that spoke specifically to the learning process.

Well, I was wrong. I completely missed it! I picked out some great pieces of the message and applied them to our life, and then called it a lifestyle of learning. I didn't realize until recently that I was accepting a counterfeit. Though I sincerely wanted my children and myself to have the educational experience that I was reading about, I was sincerely wrong in how I was going about it. I tried to get it by changing the appearance of how we did things on the outside. I didn't fully understand that true change begins on the inside and works its way out.

What This Lifestyle of Learning™ Counterfeit Looked Like in My Family

I began by defining our education by the informal learning activities that took place in our home. I was familiar with the Lifestyle of Learning™ vocabulary, describing activities with what Marilyn calls the seven natural vital signs of the learning processindividual, delight-directed, life-related, valuably-active, productive, self-motivated, and focused. We stayed home [during the week] so the kids would have many uninterrupted hours to focus on their activities while I encouraged my children's growth in the vital signs.

I knew that each of my children had their own unique interests and bents, and I tried to use these as ways to begin to naturally introduce tools for learning as well as to encourage a love of learning [two of the three LOL goals]. I also realized that because each child was unique, their skills and abilities would develop on their own timetable. For some of them, it would be slower or faster than the "norm," but that would not define how successful they were. 

My husband and I also tried to nurture the appearance of unity in our family by keeping our children with us in the worship service at church. We also stopped going to Sunday School. We did activities together instead of fragmenting our family by sending everyone in different directions. 

This may sound like a pretty good education and a pretty good atmosphere for learning. At the time, I thought it was. I was taking the pieces of the Lifestyle of Learning™ message that I understood and applying them as best as I knew how. But I was not being Spirit-led and I unintentionally overlooked the single most foundational principle to the Lifestyle of Learning message: the importance of relationship in the educational process. Of course it was missing! I had never understood it to begin with. In missing the importance of relationship, I missed the liberating beauty of the whole Lifestyle of Learning™ message for way too long.

Where I Went Wrong

My first mistake was in defining our education by the informal learning activities that took place rather than taking the time and energy to fully absorb and embrace for myself the true definition of education. I am in the process of doing that now, and it is taking a lot of both time and energy. But it is so worth it, because for the first time ever I am starting to finally get it. Now I can reread Marilyn's words that "relationship provides the most powerful lessons you will ever learn, for all of life flows out of the condition of your primary relationships." The truth of that statement resonates in my heart because I have experienced this truth first hand in my own life. For so long, I had overlooked the foundational principle of having right relationships, and I had the fruit in my life to prove it. But all that is changing now! I have learned that it is only through right relationships that true Christlike character is developed. 

What Lifestyle of Learning™ Looks Like in My Family Today

My children's education looks a lot different these days. I want to share an example from my own life that happened this past week. I have a 12-year-old daughter, Taylor, who has a disability that makes academics a real challenge for her. Every day we spend about 15 minutes working on phonics/reading. A few days ago, as my daughter struggled through sounding out each word, I encouraged her to be persistent and not to get frustrated. I reminded her to stay focused on her task and not become distracted. My ultimate goal for her reading time was to help her to develop these character qualities and to teach her how to rightly relate with her own education. There was none of the frustration that used to be there because the primary goal for her education is different than it used to be. Her table-time, as well as the rest of her education, is serving as a means to form her character. I have let go of all unrealistic expectations that I had put on her in the past which frees me to know and love her in the way that she needs me to instead of trying to change who God created her to be to fit into my own ideal. As a result our relationship has completely changed. She no longer feels like a failure with me. She feels my love and acceptance.

That particular day while I was reading with Taylor, my 5-year-old son was sitting beside us. He could see how hard she was working, and he was so sincere and enthusiastic in his praise for her even though he is miles beyond her in his reading ability. This is so sweet to me because it was not always this way. He and his older brother used to laugh at her, but there is no way they would do that now. I used to get angry at them (very angry) for making fun of her, but that never empowered them to change. It only encouraged them to make their ridicule a little less obvious. My anger and my shame didn't change their hearts. Now I understand that love empowered that heart change in them. It was only after changing my own unloving behavior toward my boys (my own anger and shame) that I was able to influence them to extend love to their sister. In the same way, it was only after changing my own unloving behavior toward my daughter (my frustration and impatience) that she was able to begin to rightly relate with her own education as well as to experience a right relationship with me. 

So do I really call that education? Yes, I do. First, my daughter was being diligent and persistent in a skill that is very challenging for her. Her character is growing. And my son was choosing to relate rightly with his sister in a very practical and loving way. Today I can honestly say that forming Christlike character is more than just a goal that sounds good for our family. It is now the defining factor that determines the words I say, the actions I take, and most importantly, the attitudes in my heart. I know that my children are a direct reflection of who I am and that I must have right relationships, not only with my own education, but also with them so I can model the love and character I desire to see grow in them. The rest of their education will naturally result as an outflow of the Christlike character they are developing today, and as I continue to model a Spirit-led process of personal growth and change. 

I wish I had been honest with myself a long time ago. I overlooked the importance of my own relationships and the relationships of my children because I didn't understand how or why they could be so central to education and to life. 

I still have a lot to learn, but I thank God that he is walking me through my own process. He has exposed, and continues to expose, many areas in my life that need to be changed in order for my growth (my education) to continue. He has given me the understanding that relationship truly is "life's most central lesson" and that right relating practices are foundational to every educational process. I have been freed to begin experiencing the fullness of what God desires for my family. My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for the fruit that I am already beginning to see. It is such a sweet reward.  ~

Marilyn's Note: The Faagau family began to receive personal instruction in March 2010. This testimony was written five months later.

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