Okay, experienced homeschoolers can stop laughing now.
We used to have lofty ideas about what our kids would achieve in life. We’ve wised up. The major goals have become:
- Able to support themselves financially in a legal manner
- Well trained or educated in whatever they choose to do
Effectively, they need to leave the house someday without draining our bank accounts to do so.
One day in early 2010, I sat in a room where some unschooling notable speaker (no clue who–I was there by accident and not a follower of “the movement”) was giving a talk. The room was packed and I was near the front. Her opening lines were (almost verbatim, but I’m sure a word or two is wrong):
“When I started homeschooling, my goals for my children were that they could do enough math to balance their checkbook, and read and write enough to fill out an employment application.”
My immediate thought was: “I am SO in the wrong place. I want WAY more for my kids than THAT.” At the time, my son was 6 years old. But I was stuck in the talk because of the capacity of the room… so I listened. A lot of what this woman said made complete sense. These were the things she would IMPOSE on her children. They would have to be self-driven to do anything additional. By 2010 when I attended this talk, this woman’s children were already adults, and were educated or well-trained for their respective careers. Their careers were not what we culturally define as “successful”, but her kids loved what they did and were financially independent of their parents. We hope this for our kids.
At age 10 our son had enough skills to balance a checkbook and fill out an employment application. He actually had more skill than that. The rest is pretty much gravy. At age 10, our daughter was not quite in the same place, but she gave every indication of being on track to do so before being a teenager. But we DO raise our children with the hope of creating the following outcomes:
- They need to think critically and be capable of analyzing things rather than simply take in what is offered to them without question
- They need to understand socially appropriate (although possibly not always acceptable) ways to manage challenging things they don’t agree with or question
- They need to be able to communicate with a diverse spectrum of other humans
- They have to be able to work with others in joint decision-making and on a team
- They should be capable of taking direction from other figures of authority
- They should be capable of understanding various worldviews and how they affect people’s decision-making or behaviors
We work towards these goals a myriad of ways, through the normal course of parenting–like every other parent. Except that I think we had to actually sit down and think about our goals for our kids very consciously because there was no subconscious sense that “they would learn a lot of what they need in school”. So while the goals above are probably similar to countless parents whose kids are educated in a variety of ways, I think the process of sitting down and becoming very clear about your goals for your children creates a situation where decisions about what is important in life become very easy. Everything is measured against the goals.
We spent a lot of years following the child, not imposing education (but supporting it where they were interested) and weave the rest in as we live each day–knowing that a lot of OUR goals for our children cannot be learned in a lesson. We have changed direction in response to our kids needs and working WITH them to address those needs–which they didn’t always have the introspection to see or courage to admit at first. Thankfully, respecting them as people has served us well on this journey.