As a heart-focused homeschooler I often find myself saying that relationships come first and that academics come lower down my list of priorities and I believe this whole heartedly. Without relationships we can’t teach our children anything, without moral development our children won’t learn anything. When we look at educating the whole child – the spiritual, moral, physical, emotional, mental and practical – we need to have some very clear guidelines, or standards that we hold ourselves to as we teach our children. The trick is that when we decide to walk away from the Education Department guidelines (as our sole guide) and we start to redefine what a successful education looks like, coupled with the idea that ‘academics is a lower priority’, we can easily find ourselves in a situation where we don’t worry about the mental (academic) development of our children. We are doing our children a disservice if we don’t catch ourselves and begin to be as intentional with the academic areas as we are with every other area of our child’s life.
In saying that something is a lower priority it really is a matter of pedantics – it is still a priority – something we should be considering and yet compared to the relationship issues, compared to the spiritual development it comes in down the list. So when we say academics is a lower priority it is a comparative statement.
When our children are being stimulated mentally they are able to
- make connections
- have knowledge
It is easy to make a knee jerk reaction and swing the pendulum too far away from traditional school. We still need to maintain that balance that our children do need to have a certain set of knowledge. What is in that set is for your discernment and judgment – each family will no doubt have a different set of knowledge. But you need to be intentional about guiding your children towards it.
Do you have academic goals for your children?
Do you have academic goals for your children? Goals that are consistent with your philosophy of discipleship, education and parenting?
Having academic goals doesn’t mean that you need to buy workbooks and sit at the desk all day. That may not be consistent with your understanding of living life with your kids! What it does mean though is that you take some time to think through what you want your child to be able to do or know by a certain time. For our family the time frame isn’t as defined as the content. The content is defined.
First step: Know what you want to include in your family’s knowledge/skills set:
As I’ve said, each family will value different areas of study differently. These are the areas that I have considered –
- Bible study
- Language Arts – Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking
- General knowledge about the world – history, science, geography
- Technology – we live in a world that has high technological skills
- Thinking skills – which includes defending their faith
Second step: Assess your kids
You need to look at each individual child – where they are at today, their strengths, their weaknesses, their interest, passions or personal goals.
Third step: Plan how to take them forward
This is when it is easy to just buy the curriculum. We say – My child is here in their understanding of math and I want to get them over here and this curriculum says it will get them there. But purchasing a set curriculum and assigning lesson time is not the only way to do things. But you do need to know how you are going to increase your child’s understanding, knowledge and skills in each of the areas you have decided is important.
Fourth step: Find time to do it
We can have the best plans in the world but if we don’t live them out they will never come to anything, there will never be any fruit in our life. The same goes for academic goals with our children. We need to know when we are going to do the things we have planned.
Fifth step: Keep Assessing
Setting goals is a worthless activity unless we continually pause and reflect on our goals and on how we are doing. We need to do this for our children’s academics otherwise life just becomes a big blur and we more often than not find ourselves at a point down the track anxious about things because we haven’t been as consistent as we thought we were going to be. When we reassess we can tweak either the goals or the plan so we are walking in reality but also heading towards our bigger goal.
Lifestyle-homeschoolers can often get caught up with the life skills, character, relationship skills, interests and talents and forget the academics. We can be fearful that if we intentionally address the academic area we will fall into being like school. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we truly recognize every area of our kids life, we need to be intentional about their intellectual and academic abilities as well as all the other areas we work with.
Create a Unique Education for your Child: When we consider the whole child, we have the opportunity to shape our homeschool to their needs and in doing so create a unique educational experience for each of our children.
How do you Define Success? How you define success will shape every decision you make in your family.
What you Believe about Education will Shape your Homeschool: What you believe about education will shape all your decisions as you homeschool. Give yourself time to work out what you believe.
Homeschool Scope and Sequence for the Whole Child: The scope and sequence tells you what you will cover and when in your homeschool. As a discipleship homeschool it needs to reflect the whole-life approach.
Relationships First: A Homeschool Principle -Relationships first is a principle that has shaped our family – putting heart issues before any other to-do list.
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