Enhanced – read by the author

by Kay Chance

by Kay Chance

The Three C’s of Education: Competition, Cooperation, and Comparisons
Istill remember my elementary math classes. Our teacher was a big believer in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division drills so we would know our facts—fast and error free. Each year she would use a themed wall to show us where we stood in relation to the other students after the latest drill. For example, it might be space-themed, and each of our names was printed on a spaceship heading to the moon. The goal… to have your spaceship first.

Much of my education was based on competition. Trying to be the fastest-math-facts-kiddo was just the beginning.

In high school there was a whole new level of competition. All of a sudden class rankings became much more important, knowing scholarship and university applications were on the line. Each year students yearned to make the team or cheerleading squad, be elected as a class officer, pass the audition for the choir, the band, the drill team—everyone was looking for a place to belong in spaces with “limited seating.”

Then there were the yearbooks. Filled with pages that included girls voted “most beautiful” and a list of those who were most popular, most likely to succeed, most likely to be famous, most likely to… you get the idea.

It seemed our whole educational life and culture was based on competition.

Don’t get me wrong! There is great value in competition and a lot we can learn from sports and other competitive endeavors! My own children were involved in swim teams, robotics, and more. There were tryouts for plays at our local theater and game nights with friends. But should competition be the primary motivator in education? Doesn’t it ultimately lead our children to measure themselves in relation to others? Doesn’t it encourage comparison?

With both social media and a culture of competition, it’s no wonder that we all seem to struggle with comparisons. We spend a lot of time comparing people and achievements: our kids to others, ourselves to others, our homeschools to others… you get the idea, again.

As homeschoolers we get to think about education in a new way. Let’s consider what it would look like to emphasize cooperation over competition and only make comparisons intentionally—not measuring ourselves against someone else’s arbitrary standards or even our own. Instead, we can use comparisons as an educational tool.

An Emphasis on Cooperation

I’ve really been struck this past year with how much emphasis there is on community, not individualism, in the Bible. Though God delights in each of us individually, so many of His instructions involve how we are to live with one another—to truly love one another—as we put others’ interests first, sacrifice our own desires and even rights, and honor them. Jesus’ words in John 13:35 are such a powerful reminder: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Lady Bug
“We want our kids to see their family as the ones who ‘have their backs’ in life.”
And then there’s the beautiful story of the early church in Acts 2:44–47: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

What a wonderful picture of living in unity and cooperation.

Practical Tips for The Natural Learning Home
Creating a natural learning home is all about cultivating an environment for your children to learn the way God made them to learn. We don’t need a curriculum to do that… we simply need to be intentional. Here are some suggestions for encouraging cooperation in your home and school:

Build a team mentality. Your family and homeschool community are on this journey together. We want our kids to see themselves as part of a team that cheers one another on, strives to do their best as a part of that team, and rejoices in the success of others. You are the perfect one to model this mindset! Acknowledge your kids unique gifts and talents—don’t compare them to their siblings.

Help one another. Whether it’s learning a new concept, getting a chore done, or figuring out how to deal with a problem, we want our kids to see their family as the ones who “have their backs” in life. Praise your kids when you see them help each other out. Encourage them to be their siblings’ biggest cheerleaders.

Play cooperative games in addition to traditional ones. This is a simple and fun way to turn game night into a team building experience. In cooperative games, players work together toward a specific goal. Our family has enjoyed several of these types of games including Forbidden Island and Pandemic. (And yes, my sons were in college in 2020 and insisted we get this one out when they were home. We’ve also watched the movie Twister while there were thunderstorms booming and tornado watches in the area. It’s our family’s weird sense of humor.)

Learn together. When our children study with one another, they will learn from each other. Art and music, history, geography, and science are all subjects that can be taught on multiple levels with the whole family.

At the very least, a family read-aloud is always an option! Reading aloud together was one of our favorite times in homeschooling. We talked about so many different things and even developed many “inside jokes” based on the books we read. After reading The Giver, I don’t know how many times my youngest yelled out, “Precision of language, please!”

Comparison as an Educational Tool
All comparisons aren’t bad! They can actually be an incredible educational tool, but the key is figuring out how to make those comparisons wisely and with a purpose. In general, think of it this way: most of the time compare ideas, not people.

Is it ever okay to compare people? Yes, but we have to be extremely careful. Comparing leaders in history (or even today) can help us evaluate what makes a good leader. Comparing how two different people handle a situation can show us what’s most effective.

But when comparing people, it’s important to begin by discerning the purpose of making the comparisons. If it’s to puff ourselves up or put ourselves down, don’t do it. If it is to sincerely learn something, and we can do it objectively, then it may be helpful.

When we are discussing people, we should always do it with grace—none of us are perfect and we never know someone else’s full story. We also want to avoid name-calling and labeling—looking more at behaviors, attitudes, and their actual words. As much as possible try to discern what are facts versus what are opinions.

Practical Tips for The Natural Learning Home
How can you encourage your children to make comparisons in a way that is helpful? Try the following:

Make educational conversations central to your dinnertime a few days each week. What are your children learning about? History is the perfect subject to consider the differences between ideas and philosophies of cultures, governments, religions, and more. Talk about why you believe what you do about a variety of topics as you compare differences.

Discuss character through literature and biographies. An easy, non-threatening way to make comparisons of people is through reading—whether the characters are fictional or real. When you make comparisons between people in books, you’re discussing their actions and behaviors to understand why people behave the way they do, what they could have done differently, and more… and hopefully see how there’s potential for growth.

Teach your children the art of decision-making. Comparing and contrasting options helps us make wise decisions. When faced with a decision as a family, make a pros and cons list. Talk about how sometimes we have to figure out what’s best out of several really good options.

Use Venn diagrams in your studies. A Venn diagram is a great visual tool to see what two people, subjects, topics, etc. have in common and how they are different. They can be simple enough for your youngest learners and detailed enough for a high schooler.

Emphasizing cooperation over competition will help our children develop a healthy mindset when it comes to their view of self and others. The world offers them plenty of opportunities to make comparisons, so why don’t we offer them plenty of chances to work with one another instead? When we do compare, let’s be intentional about it, using comparison as an educational tool and not a way to judge ourselves and others—to see how everyone “stacks up” against each other. After all, life is about far more than having your spaceship take first place.
Kay script
Kay Chance headshot

ay Chance homeschooled her children for fifteen years. While teaching them, she discovered a passion for writing and developing curriculum resources. She loves sharing natural learning methods and creative lesson ideas with other homeschooling parents. Kay is the co-executive editor of Homeschooling Today magazine and the author of the older extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series. She makes her home in Texas with her husband Brian.