Keeping the end in mind


Written by contributor Jena of Yarns of the Heart.

When our kids are grown and look back on their homeschooling years, what will they say about it?

Melissa and I were in the car recently, talking about her college classes. She’s a political science major, so she likes to think about current events and  our political system. As we rounded a curve, she concluded,  “People are like sheep … they just want someone to lead them without having to think about it.”

I laughed and agreed with her.

Then she added, “I think the greatest thing you taught us was to think for ourselves and to question everything.”

Wow. That made me stop and take a breath (not literally. I was still driving, you know).

When we started this journey 20 years ago, one thing compelled me: I wanted our kids to be leaders. I didn’t want them to follow the crowd and live blindly. I wanted them to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

If you ask how we did it, I guess it boils down to three principles.

  • Be humble. This means we parents don’t have to be the experts all the time. Of course sometimes you just have to tell them Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but other times you can say, “That’s an interesting question! I bet you’ll figure it out.” And my personal favorite, “I don’t know.”
  • Respect their thought processes. This is also part of being humble. What they think and how they think is to be taken seriously. Encourage them to ask more questions, to look at things from various perspectives, and to experiment.  They learn how to think by our example and by considering everyone’s input. As they experience you taking them seriously, they will return the favor and take you seriously.
  • Respect their conclusions. You might not agree with them all the time. That’s OK. Remember, you’re not the expert anyway. If you have a relationship based on mutual respect, you can explain why you think the way you do, and if they are humble too, they will consider it.

The best learning situations can be family discussions. We had them all the time, standing around our gas log fireplace in the living room.

Someone would have read something interesting and wanted to talk about it. That would lead to thoughts about this or that, and off we’d go. I liked to call those sessions “solving the problems of the universe.”


A couple months ago we helped Peter move into his new apartment and had a few hours the next morning to just sit and chat. As usual, our conversation took us a million places and Peter remarked, “Talking to you two is interesting. People don’t understand how I like to consider all the angles and all the options. I see now where I got it.

As homeschoolers, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of “filling the bucket.” We want our kids to learn all the facts and finish the curriculum. That’s good but it should be secondary to learning how to think, how to treat others, and how to learn.

Stop once in awhile and reflect on what you’re doing with your kids. Make a New Year’s resolution that charts the course for the future. Write it out and frame it, if necessary.

It’s never too late to keep the end in mind.

What do you hope your adult kids will say when they look back at homeschooling?

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.


  1. It’s always so nice to hear about successful families with similar goals and strategies! I tell my kids all the time “I don’t know. Let’s look it up!” And I love it because it shows them it’s ok to not know all the answers, but that there are answers out there worth finding. One of our favorite changes we’ve made in our schooling this year is adding a computer lab. My 11 year old can choose this up to three times a week, and he can pick either science or history/social studies to look up information of a subject of interest. He takes notes, cross resaearches, and then either presents his findings orally bases on his notes or in a writen report. He also has to help his 7 yr old sister look up a subject of her interest at least every other week, so they get to practice working together as a team. We love finding out where things came from, how stuff is made, more info and pictures are available than in any school textbook, and it’s tailor made to the interests of my kiddos so that they love to learn, question, and work to find answers. It’s great to have families like yours as examples that it works and helps grow amazing people!
    Judy’s latest post: Keys

    • Judy, do you guys filter your internet? Are your kids allowed full rein?

      • Yes, we definitely filter out internet. In fact when we first got it my husband put it on the highest filters offered by our provider. We couldn’t watch youtube, shop on most sights, and I could read any blogs, much less be able to write one! I convinces him to take it down a bit. And we are mostly happy with it, we’re certainly not deprived. But we still have to have regular talks with our son about being very careful to only go on sites we have approved, to ask before trying new ones, and even about words he enters into search engines. He was looking for a particular game that he had played a few days earlier that had the word ‘scary’ in the title, when he clicked on what he thought was the sight a gross zombie picture popped up with freaky music and sound effects. He was so scared he had to sleep with us that night, this was just a few months ago when he was 10. He wouldnt use the laptop for weeks. After that we were very specific about what words he used to search. In that vein, no they do not have free rein on the internet, he is not allowed to have any personal info, not even his first name posted, he always uses a non personal screen name, he is not allowed to post pictures or videos that show anyone’s face or features of our home that could be identified from the street. He is incredibly techno-smart. But he is ASD and very innocent and unaware of inuendo or more subtle inappropriateness. He is not allowed to chat. And we monitor very carefully, and talk a lot about the good and the dangers. I admit I’m a bit scared of the teenage years ahead of us in this techno saturated world. But we just try to keep the lines of communication wide open and take things a day at a time. 🙂
        Judy’s latest post: Keys

  2. As usual, I finish your homeschooling articles feeling so refreshed and encouraged!!! Thank you so much, Jena…your family continues to shape and influence our family every single day! 🙂

  3. I love the simplicity of this post. After homeschooling our 8 kids now for 18 years, I completely agree. Lively conversations allow for critical thinking skills to form in a safe environment. It also allows for the passing on of family values in a way that helps kids understand ‘why’ we value what we do. Great post!

  4. Jena, I am so glad you are still writing here on this blog. I totally agree with what you are saying. My kiddos and I have some of the best conversations. I love hearing what’s on their minds. They ask great questions and we try to make it fun looking for the answers. One day I hope my now 10 year old twins will say the same thing your grown children said to you.

  5. We’re halfway done with our homeschooling journey–finishing up eight years with three kids on two continents. I sincerely hope our kids are able to say the same things about our homeschool when all is said and done. I want them to love the Lord, love others, and THINK for themselves.
    Hannah’s latest post: Ending the Old Year with Peace, Starting the New Year with Joy

  6. “We want our kids to learn all the facts and finish the curriculum. That’s good but it should be secondary to learning how to think, how to treat others, and how to learn.”

    That is EXACTLY what I want for Coale, not just from our future homeschooling but from our parenting in general. Even if the world wasn’t the way it is, I would want that for him.

    Thanks for reading my mind. 🙂
    Ashley Smith’s latest post: More Christmas Ramblings + Family Photos

  7. Very encouraging, thanks so much! We’re praying about home schooling our 2 daughters (currently 3 1/2 and 10mo), and though we have some good lead time to plan, it’s definitely good to keep the end goals in mind. This is a good perspective no matter what schooling choice we decide on 🙂
    Kim’s latest post: It’s the simple things: she has been playing with the…

  8. My siblings and I were all homeschooled through 8th grade and this was one of our parents big goals for us. I am eternally grateful to my parents for teaching my how to think for myself, even when they didn’t agree with my conclusions. I’m excited to be struggling through teaching my own kids how to be critical thinkers themselves. It’s hard work but so worth it!
    Steph’s latest post: Gratefulness: An Antidote to Judgment

  9. So wonderful. I think I’d like to sit in on your family conversations, too!

  10. Thanks for all your blogging… I have one that graduates in a year.. three little ones eleven and under. Sometimes I get very tired.. but need to not get weary in well doing but think about the end. Thanks again. 🙂

  11. Excellent. It is so easy to just say, ok I will let the curriculum do it all, but it can’t. Conversations and time as a family mean so much more and help build the characters of our most precious children.
    Amy Caroline’s latest post: {p,h,f,r} O! Christmas Tree 2013

  12. This is definitely our goal as well!
    We love to have them do their own research as well. It builds confidence in them and points them to the grand world of knowledge as their teacher, and not just me. 🙂
    Thanks for the post.
    Karen’s latest post: The end in mind…

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