Friday, April 18, 2014

Homeschool Priorities

Cathy Duffy, in her book 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, guides new homeschool families (and those who just need some direction and perspective) through the process of identifying their priorities for their children.  One of her questions is, "What do I think is most important for my children to learn?"  Here is the list that Mike and I have come up with during several conversations over the last few years.  Our answers have remained the same, although we have fleshed them out a bit over the years.

*Love for God and others.  This is our top priority.  We have many goals for our children, but this is the one that trumps all of the others.  Luke 2:52  "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  Luke 10:27 (originally commanded in Deuteronomy 6), "... "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"  Wisdom = mindStature = strengthFavor with God = soulFavor with man = heart.   

*Strong moral character.  Webster's 1828 dictionary defines "Moral" as "Relating to the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, and with reference to right and wrong.  The word moral is applicable to actions that are good or evil, virtuous or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined."

*Valuable life skills.  We want to give our children useful, practical, applicable knowledge -- spiritual, mental and physical -- that they can carry with them throughout their lives.  "Skill," in Webster's 1828 dictionary, is "the familiar knowledge of any art or science, united with readiness and dexterity in execution or performance, or in the application of the art or science to practical purposes."  We have seen the devastating effects on families when men are not fully trained in a profession and are left floundering with no solid purpose or skills, wondering what they should do with their lives.  It is a scary process for a family to go through, and it makes submission and respect a very hard thing for a wife to accomplish if she is married to a man like this.  While we can not guarantee their lifelong security in their chosen profession, we feel that it is our job to identify their strengths and train them thoroughly in at least one (if not more than one) useful, constructive skill that they can, God willing, use for a lifetime. 

*Preparation for college-level studies.  If any one of our boys needs a degree in order to further prepare themselves for their chosen line of work, we want them to be able to master those higher-level courses without apprehension.  This planning and preparation begins in the elementary years, as it is hard to undo habits that have gone on for years.  We want scrupulous study and research, reading for comprehension and application, critical thinking in every subject, an understanding and appreciation for our country's founders and the Constitution, a deep appreciation for how God has worked throughout the history of the world's events and inhabitants, and the practical yet rigorous use of mathematics, to all be a part of our children's education.  In order to accomplish all of these lofty goals, we must set short-term goals early on, or we will fall far short of where we are aiming!  This doesn't mean that we start drilling our children in rocket science when they are 5.  Far from it!  But identifying our education goals early in our teaching years is a big step in recognizing the step-by-step actions we need to take to achieve our long-term goals.  It also limits our curriculum choices, and makes it a lot easier for this indecisive, highly distractible mama to be able to put down a new, glossy, shiny, beautifully illustrated book that isn't in line with our priorities.   

*How to use their talents for God's glory.  I differentiate between skills and talents when it comes to educating my children and looking to their futures.  They are born talented in certain abilities.  One of my boys is a talented storyteller.  He loves to give elaborate, detailed descriptions -- orally.  However, he does not enjoy writing.  Writing his thoughts is a skill that we can help him to develop so that he will be able to more fully apply, and put into God's service, the oral talent he has been given.  The skill of writing will help him to organize his thoughts so that he can use his speaking talents more effectively.  With this said, I must note that it is also important to me that my children know that when we use our talents for His glory, we will often go unrecognized for those actions.  (How many times has the church janitor been paraded across the front of the sanctuary for everyone to appreciate and admire?)  Many times, God will require something of us in an area that we are not naturally gifted in (Moses and public speaking!), so I will not limit my children's educational experience to only those things they are good at or want to do.  We are committed to helping our children develop their talents, but not to the exclusion of disciplines that will stretch them and grow them and help them to discover new and valuable things about themselves, and in doing, will produce strong character.

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