Higher. What words come to mind when you see this word? Would you say it is typically used to describe your homeschool goals and aspirations?
When I think of higher in the context of homeschooling, I am overwhelmed. Through twenty plus years of homeschooling my children, I have heard frequent references to the “higher goal” or purpose in educating our children at home. While I see much truth in this, I confess I oftentimes found it overwhelming, intimidating and just plain confusing. What exactly does this “higher goal” look like?
As one who likes things uncomplicated, I tended to focus on two goals for our homeschool. The first goal was relationships. I wanted my children to be “all about relationships” first with God and then with family. The second goal I had was teaching my children to love learning.
Early in our journey, as my husband and I prioritized these two objectives, we reached the conclusion that the key to success was through real, authentic relationships with our children. Being a practical person, I created an acronym to help me to remember and focus what was most important.
The acronym was R.E.A.L. (yes, I am that simplistic!) which stands for Relationships, Education, Authenticity and a Love for Learning.
What did “REAL” look like in my family?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
After their relationship with God, we focused on “loving your neighbor”. One of our children’s first “neighbors” is their sibling(s). Learning to love, get along with, honor and respect a sibling is excellent training for adulthood. Teaching our children to practice love as described in I Corinthians 13 toward their siblings and parents prepares them for a lifestyle of loving God and others.
Early in our home education journey, I stumbled across the definition of the word “education” from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language. Meditating on this definition, my vision for our homeschool radically changed. In Webster’s 1828 dictionary, education is defined as:
“The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper and form the manners and habits of youth and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”
So by this definition, education encompasses all aspects of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth to fit them for their future. Are you educating your children in all instruction and discipline? Are you enlightening their understanding and correcting their temper? Forming their habits? There is much here to consider and I want to encourage you to ponder this and take to heart the greater purpose of education which was foundational in the early days of our nation.
For my family, this meant being open with our walk with God…parents and children. My husband and I would humbly seek forgiveness from our children if we had offended them (intentionally or not) as a sign of our relationship with Christ and as an example for them. We understood profoundly that we were not perfect parents, but rather parents who relied on Him. Our family standard was Christ and teaching our children to be like Christ. Were we perfect? No. But we sought to honor Him and set before our children His example.
“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing of the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2)
Love for Learning
This was the ultimate goal of academics in our family. My greatest desire as to feed my children quality books, engage their curiosity and teach them how to research answers and investigate topics. This was done through a variety of techniques. First, I had to model it. When I was curious about something, I would take time to go to our library to search for information. Secondly, I provided unit and literature studies centered on their interests. I sought to show them that learning could be fun, if they would engage and seek to satisfy their curiosity. In fact, you could define our homeschool philosophy, “modified Charlotte Mason, delight directed, with a little bit of Unit Studies mixed in” as I focused on my children’s individual needs and led them to love learning.
As one REAL Homeschool Mom to another, I want to encourage you toward the higher goal of homeschooling. Jesus promises in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.” Yes, God promises us all things will be added, if we seek Him first.
In our homeschool journey, I have seen God’s faithfulness from Attitudes to Zoology—and everything in between. Seek Him, Seek His wisdom on what your family needs to reach the higher goal, a life of following God.