I noticed that Loretta and I often make different choices in our parenting and in our schooling for our children vs. other parents we talk to. And it frequently comes down to our focus on our long-term goals. I’m not sure that those goals are any different than other parents… but we do think about them when making decisions, and try to avoid getting caught up in the day-to-day routine of school, work, and activities.
Our long-term goals for our children are vague, but simple — we want them to grow up to be adults with the skills to make their own choices, adapting to changes in their lives and their world, setting their own directions for their own lives. We want them to have the intellectual and emotional capabilities to make good choices to build stable lives for themselves, and to build the families they choose to build. We want them to understand the consequences of their actions, and use that when making life decisions. We want to raise them to be successful adults, not “good children”.
Along the way, we are concerned that they do not make choices that restrict their options later. We care about school performance not because grades matter, but because poor grades might restrict the college options later in life. We care about college not because they have to go (it is not the right path for everyone), but because the choice to not go will impact their career choices later.
And that is what brings these goals down to the reality of homeschooling for an 11 year old girl. In general, when homeschooling, we can focus on helping her advance her skills in various subjects. But we also need to prepare her to be ready to go to college if she chooses, or to decide another path if that does not end up being the correct one.
Our real goal is to teach our children to learn, and to love learning. To help them figure out what their interests are, to learn how to dig deeper into a topic, to learn how to ask and answer questions, and how to manage their own time. We are working on things that many people don’t deal with until after college such as planning out personal time management, setting daily and weekly goals, measuring your own progress, dealing with failure if a project doesn’t work, and figuring out how else to approach a problem. We’re working on how to be an independent learner, how to be productive when someone isn’t spoon-feeding you a schedule, and how to take minimal direction and turn it into a real result.
Of course, we’re covering the actual topics and curriculum needed for kids at their ages, too. That is a given. But again, with the goals of raising adults with the skills to succeed in the world… there is more to it than just the subjects they learn, and test scores.