- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

Once, when I was young, I heard my father giving a speech in which he told a story:

“Many centuries ago, a man came to a town and saw a large and busy work site. Walking up to one of the workmen, the newcomer asked, ‘What are you doing here?’

“‘I’m putting mortar on bricks,’ the workman said.

“The questioner wasn’t satisfied, so he asked a second worker, ‘What are you doing here?’ and the reply was, ‘I’m building a wall.’

“To a third man, he put the same question, but this man stopped for a minute, looked at the brick and mortar in his hands, and looked around him.

“‘Me?’ he said, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’”

My father explained it is our vision that allows us to see a greater meaning beyond the immediate nature of our work. I don’t know what the various adults in the audience took away from that speech, but I do know that one listener — his 13-year-old daughter — has never forgotten it. It often has helped me to see my small actions today have consequences that are much larger.

In the act of writing a column, I provide ideas and tools and encouragement to people concerned with educating their children. In turn, these parents are transmitting values to their children, equipping them to be valuable and contributing individuals in this world. At the end of a chain of events extending from each person’s actions, the world is affected in some way.

Why do we parents exert our efforts to educate our children? Is it just so they can get a good job someday? So they are able to support a family? Or is it to build a better world?

If we are conscious of the big picture, we become very aware of the importance of the details. A poorly calculated angle may seem unimportant to a geometry student, but if that person is later responsible for calculating the angle of takeoff for a plane or a space shuttle, his or her ability will affect many lives.

I look at educating children as my investment. I can invest my time in many things — digging a garden, from which I reap good food or beautiful plants; creating financial entities, from which I reap physical wealth; spiritual activity, from which I reap good character. None of these compares to investing in young minds, in my opinion. Since a human being is unlimited, elastic and capable of creativity, the investment we make there will bring dividends that last a lifetime. Furthermore, it ripples out to touch others’ lives, and keeps producing for generations as the children grow up, become parents and raise children of their own.

The daily tasks of any work are sometimes tedious, but we do them gladly when we see the purpose. To sit with our children, working out the spelling or grammar or algebra problem is not always fun. However, even just 20 years later, what will be your child’s memory of learning that information? Will it be “Oh, yeah, my eighth-grade teacher taught me that,” or “Wow, my mom and dad taught me that.”

Home-schooling is a chance to develop a lifetime bond built around learning. But it is far more. It’s a way for us to invest and equip our children to positively affect the world around them, throughout their lives and even throughout their children’s and subsequent generations’ lives. Learning is not merely for the sake of income production, or to ensure that our nation has a competitive advantage in relation to other nations. It is to advance the condition of humanity, to move the human consciousness to a higher plane.

When families merge instruction with the love and guidance that is their intrinsic role, the result is a more cohesive and more efficient transfer of information than the piecemeal, stratified educational experience of massive institutions.

Raising our children straight and true creates a “plumb line” for countless others. We’re not just slapping mortar on bricks — we’re building a cathedral.

• Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a free-lance writer who lives in Maryland.

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