The following is a guest post written by Melissa Camara Wilkins of melissacamarawilkins.com.
When our first daughter was born, we knew we were not going to homeschool.
We knew some homeschooled kids. Those kids were weird.
Two things that didn’t occur to us back then:
1. There are a lot of homeschooled kids out there. We knew two who were weird. That might not have been a representative sample.
2. We are also weird. It’s not such a bad thing.
It didn’t take us long to realize that choosing an educational philosophy based on trying to avoid making weird kids was not actually the best plan.
By the time our daughter was school-aged, we didn’t even look at schools. We didn’t tour kindergarten classrooms, didn’t compare charter schools, didn’t price-check the private schools. We knew homeschooling was best for us.
We realized we needed to stop worrying about what to avoid and start focusing on what we wanted to accomplish.
Schooling, for us, became part of our family culture. It’s not about textbooks and checklists and best practices, it’s about what we want to create for our family, and what skills and experiences and mindset we want to give our children.
Here are some steps you can take too to create a lifestyle of learning for your family:
Make a list
We made a short list of what we hoped for our kids’ education, with ideas like: We want our kids to love to learn. We want them to know how to learn. We want them to see learning as a life-long process, not just a life stage.
No matter what our goals are, or how often we revisit them, the act of writing them down is a powerful tool to provide focus.
Once we knew what we wanted, we just had to decide how best to turn those ideals into reality. Knowing what we wanted to create helped us to see that homeschool made the most sense for us.
Focus on your deeper reasons
Some goals are too specific to be useful (my kids should all major in astrophysics!) and others are too general (my kids should have the best education possible!).
When we started hearing ourselves make those kinds of goals, we would ask about each one: why? Why do we want this for our kids?
Why do we want the “best education” possible? Maybe it’s because we want our kids to be exposed to the beauty and wonder of various fields of study. Or because we want them to have opportunities to learn what they love. Or because we want them to have a chance to practice being diligent in pursuit of their own dreams.
The underlying reasons are probably our real educational goals.
Make your best choices
There are so many great homeschooling choices: different teaching methods, curriculum options, activities and strategies and THINGS TO TRY. Remembering our big-picture intentions means less stress when deciding among all those choices.
Instead of asking: Should we go on this field trip, buy these materials, join this group? We try to ask things like: Will this help our kids become independent learners? Will it help them identify their passions? Will it allow us to model lifelong learning? If so, we’ll give it a try. If not, we can skip it without regret.
When we’re clear about our own goals, we aren’t nearly as tempted to compare our schooling choices to the choices of others.
The neighbor’s kindergartener is learning three languages? The school down the street has an amazing art program? Someone at the park does more book reports than my kids?
That’s great! Good for them. We aren’t doing those things, but that doesn’t mean we’re missing out.
Our standard for judging our homeschool isn’t other schools. It’s whether we’re moving toward our own ideals.
Walk your own path
We don’t choose homeschooling out of fear. We aren’t hiding from anything. We aren’t running away from schools. We’re turning toward what we think is the best path for our family. We can all do that, even if we end up on entirely different roads.
The exact schooling method you choose isn’t the point. Embracing your family’s own educational mission is what’s important.
Even if some of us (okay, maybe just me!) end up with kind of weird kids.
In what ways have you shifted your focus to what you want your family to achieve instead of what you want to avoid?