Our Homeschooling Goal for 2015

As we begin a new calendar year of homeschooling (we’ve been homeschooling since 2006), my family continues to have the same struggles that most home-school families go through. We worry over schedules, completed assignments, whether our kids have made adequate progress in their studies, and whether they will be prepared for college if they choose to go.

All of these issues are important to manage in the short term.  But the most pressing question we ask ourselves every year is, “Is our home-school helping our children to fulfill their purpose and destiny in life?”

As if that were an easy question to answer.

Even though my wife and I are tempted to focus on the ‘what, when and where’ of educating our children, the focus must be continue to be on the ‘why.’ Why is it that they need to be able to discern truth and beauty, and why is their spiritual growth even more important than their intellectual growth?  It’s because we believe they are not just preparing for a career, but for a calling.

The skills our children gain through studies of various subjects will help them to succeed in the workplace and in our modern culture. But the development of their character and their God-given gifts will provide the foundation for their divine purpose. I can’t determine the success of our home-school by their acceptance to a college, or when they are hired for their first job. These things are just tools that their Father will use as they pursue their true calling – to glorify Him through a selfless and joy-filled life dedicated to serving others in whatever capacity He designed for them.

Of course we have educational milestones we’d like our kids to reach, and we’ll continue to challenge them intellectually. However, if at the end of this year, our children are closer to God and more confident in utilizing the gifts that He blessed them with, then we will have achieved our primary goal for 2015. If we seek the Kingdom first in our home-school, then, as Matthew 6:33 promises, all these ‘things’ we often worry about will be added in due time.

Comments welcome: What goals have you set for your family this year? How do you plan to achieve them? 

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Blimp or Helicopter?

I’ve been noticing a disturbing pattern in my habits as a homeschool parent.

My wife and I have always emphasized independence in our children’s learning styles. From the beginning, it was their responsibility to own their own education. By allowing them to determine their own schedule, giving them the choice type of projects they would present, and keeping  a “hands off” approach unless it was clear our kids needed direct assistance, our children became aware of the fact that our role as parents was to facilitate, not to dictate their learning.  Over the last 8 years, this strategy seems to have fostered the correct attitude in them. They study, they research, and they write for themselves, not for us.  This independence has given them a sense of confidence when approaching challenges, one I would not trade for any amount of personal satisfaction in solving their problems for them. 

However, at times I’ve used this independent streak as a crutch to excuse my own lackadaisical approach in keeping my kids accountable. It becomes very easy to allow their self-directed mentalities to cloud my judgement about when I should, in fact, step in and make adjustments. Examples include when assignments mysteriously have not been completed for a month, or a test unexpectedly is barely passed. The “why didn’t you ask for help” response rings hollow when I know for a fact that I was not pro-active in checking on their studies. I realize this may seem a good problem to have for parents that have less than motivated learners, but it has become a systematic issue in our learning journey, and one I can only attribute to my ‘big picture’ view of education becoming too big. 

I call this “blimp” schooling as opposed to the oft-mentioned “helicopter parenting”, the latter phrase referring to parents that hover too close to the child, not allowing them freedom to fail or to express their own abilities without interference. My problem is that I tend to look at the big picture (“they all learn at their own pace”…) to the point that I lose sight of the day-to-day quandaries that they may face educationally.  My blimp soars too high when all I can see are specks of activity on the educational roads my kids travel, when in fact there may be a pile-up on the expressway that needs an immediate infusion of intense interaction. It doesn’t help that they are, in fact, fiercely independent and resist when I bring the blimp closer in to observe their work in a more detailed fashion. Whether they resist or not, I know my role has to encompass both a long range and a short range view so they can reach their goals.

I’m sure there is a happy medium between the helicopter and the blimp mindset. I want to be able to keep a view from the long range of my children’s development, while having the ability to look close at any time and zoom in on the particular problem or skill that they need to develop.  Whatever that ‘aircraft’ looks like, I am making a new effort to become an expert pilot as I guide my children to their destination as learners and leaders.