Trust The Children

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What is Home Schooling Success?

I recently heard that success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal. Progressive realization, seems to me to be a step by step, line upon line process. Most of us get that don't we? But what of the words, "worthy goal" ? If I can identify the goals, can I say that we are progressively realizing them? Often, I have felt like i was playing a football game where after I made a few first downs, someone came in and moved the goal posts further away. Ever working, but am I actually getting closer to "success" in home schooling?

Attempting to discuss this topic, is certain to lead to failure. There must be as many "worthy goals" as there are families. Anything I say is certain to be right for me and wrong for many others. So I ask for your indulgence, patience and understanding.

Here are questions that we ask about our children, while we look for "progressive realization". I am not announcing at all, that we or our children have "arrived". To the contrary, the game isn't over until it is over. And with the development of a family, I am not sure it is ever over. However, I can say that choices we have made in home schooling have been a great contributor to the development of key skills and attributes we hope will carry forward in the future of our vast posterity. In other words, the education of our children must contribute to the over-arching goal of building a legacy in our children, and their children and their children's children.

Now for some of the questions we ask ourselves as we play the game and measure our progress...

What evidence do I observe that tells me that my children are effective leaders and informed followers?

When acting as leaders are they comfortable with the responsibility?

Can my children ask themselves questions and effectively search out answers and implement solutions?

Are my children overly reliant on others to learn?

Do I see evidence that they can direct their own learning goals?

Do I see in my children that their natural curiosity has been preserved and that they use it daily?

Do I see them giving their heart to some topic and desiring intensely to learn about it?

Do I see my children having meaningful learning experiences on their own?

Do I see my children able to study out a topic and synthesize the information into conclusions of their own?

OK. These are a good start.

Do you notice what questions are not here? Specifics about certain topics are not listed. Spelling is not here. etc. I am more concerned about their "approach" to learning than I am about the specifics. Cyndy is more concerned about some specifics. That is how it works here. Both are important. HOWEVER, we have learned that many of the specifics come along as an outgrowth of a personal interest. What do I mean?

You can teach spelling, or you can have them write up their interest in a topic they are passionate about, and correct the spelling there. You can teach grammar, or you can have them write or talk about a topic that currently has them captivated and correct the grammar there. You can teach them about history, or you can have them relate the "history" of the topic that has their curiosity captivated right now and discuss it with them including a larger context. You can teach them about aerodynamics, or you can have a family contest building paper airplanes and read a book about building the best paper airplanes and why certain types work better than others. You can teach them about US Government, or you can read the results of the last election together and discuss why this is a disaster for some and a panacea for others, especially after visiting the office of the local mayor. I am sure, if we were sitting down together in a small group, we could come up with tons of examples of natural learning methods that preserve instead of destroy God given tendencies or talents.

I have observed that teaching can actually destroy curiosity, self directed learning behavior and personal initiative. Yet we often are convinced that we are doing the right thing. It's like administering a medication to heal, only to find out later, was laced with mercury and the FDA hadn't figured it out yet. Now we are left to pick up the pieces.

Are your goals in home schooling defined? Can you see success happening? Do your home schooling goals contribute to the development of lasting skills and attributes in your posterity? Give this some thought, write down your conclusions and "success" might be more evident that you give yourself credit for.


  • "I have observed that teaching can actually destroy curiosity, self directed learning behavior and personal initiative." It is so very true. The more we try to teach, the less they are interested in learning. We push, they push against. In horsemanship it's called opposition reflex. But I think the real reason for it is that they feel the responsibility is taken from them. They do not own what they do. I am a mother of two preschoolers, have them home, am going to homeschool them, but still consider sending them to some kind of art workshops or something like this. But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that it can (not for sure, but can) destroy something very valuable in them: the ability to say "no, that is stupid, boring, I do not get it, I will not do this OR I will not do this this way, I will do that instead, that is interesting!" PS. Sorry for my english, it's not my mother-tongue, I am from Poland, Europe. BTW Your blog is excellent.

    By Blogger Dorota od Emitera, at 6:24 AM, November 15, 2006  

  • You said, "But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that it can (not for sure, but can) destroy something very valuable in them: the ability to say "no,".

    So often, when a child says no, we as parents think it means something more than it does, like, "No forever" or "No, and I don't have another idea in my mind" or "No, you are stupid for asking me." A simple question like, "oh really, tell me about that decision... What's on your mind?" leads to the "reason behind the behavior" and the reason more often than not, is very understandable and logical and even reasonable. We need to hear those ideas from them and then need to blow off the steam.

    By Blogger Mark and Cyndy Weiss, at 3:14 PM, November 16, 2006  

  • You asked how we measure success?

    Uhm, we don't. The kids do. It's their success, not ours.

    How do I measure my own success? I would say there's a few things:

    How authentic am I?
    Do I often feel inspired?
    Am I making mindful choices?
    Do I own what I do?
    Am I open and accepting of the present and future?

    I imagine my kids have different ideas for sucess. I'm going to take a guess:

    My son:
    Do I get to play my video games?
    Do I get to play the piano?
    Can I sing, dance, run, shout, be crazy?
    Am I allowed to express my opinion?
    Can I say what I really feel?
    Can I try new things, get dirty and make mistakes?
    Can I try things without you explaining them to death?
    Can I ask the same question over and over until I understand?

    My daughter (5):
    Can I say "no"?
    Can I have space to do things at my own pace, and not be forced into anything I don't feel comfortable with?
    Can I do nothing?
    Do I have plenty of freedom to choose my activities?
    Can I express my opinion?

    My daughter (3):
    Can I play, climb and take risks?
    Can I challenge you?
    Can I be free?
    Can I choose what I eat and when most of the time?
    Can I get lots of cuddles?
    Can I be really really loud sometimes?

    Those are only guesses tho, from my observations.

    In the end, the questions I ask myself about the kids are - are they free? Can they think? Are they growing and maturing? Are they in the habit of being themselves instead of trying to live up to other people's expectations? Do they spend the vast majority of their time doing things that they want to do?

    That's pretty much it. The details, they come on their own if all of these things are in place.

    By Anonymous Tammy Takahashi, at 2:27 PM, November 20, 2006  

  • Hi,... Wow. As a fairly new homeschooler I tend not to think too far down the line. Otherwise the room starts feeling a little small and I start feeling a little light-headed. I do have a general over-all goal, and I have short term goals...but I don't think I've really put this much thought into it--making goals through the lens of 'then' as well as 'now,' not just 'now.' Who I want them to be and how I want them to learn later should certainly influence the way I teach now. And I guess, I never thought of it that way! Fantastic post, thought provoking. Thank you.

    By Blogger Proverbs31, at 8:32 PM, November 25, 2006  

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