Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
We all have goals for our families, whether we’ve spoken them out loud or not.
I don’t mean “what curriculum we’ll use” or “what we’ll study this year” kinds of plans. I’m talking about deeper-level goals, the ones that drive all those day-to-day decisions.
You might think of these kinds of goals as your intentions for your family, or your long-term hopes, or your mission.
I reflect on ours all the time in a low-key way, but a few times a year, I make a point of thinking deeply about where we are and where we’re headed. Here’s how.
Write it all down.
There’s just something about writing your thoughts down that makes them more real. There’s a reason we say we’re “committing our ideas to paper,” after all. It is a commitment. Writing puts some skin on the bones of your ideals.
Plus, if they’re written down, you can refer back to them later to see how things are going.
Instead of just thinking through your goals and intentions, pick up a journal and pen. Write all this stuff down.
Reflect on why.
Ask yourself: Why do we homeschool? Why have we chosen this lifestyle?
Your “why” matters. Your why is what keeps you going on hard days (cough—hard seasons—cough). It’s a roadmap that keeps you headed in the right direction.
Your why can direct your “yes” and your “no” each time you consider the details: things like what supplies to buy, what books to order, what activities to commit to, how to curate your environment, or how to order your days.
Your first thoughts, when you sit down to reflect on your motivations, might be about what you don’t want for your kids’ education. That makes sense, but defining your homeschool as a list of things to avoid isn’t a joyful way to school or to live. Instead, focus on what you do want.
Why are you homeschooling?
Consider your ideal outcome.
I’m hesitant to use the word “goal” here, because having a goal implies that the outcome is within your control, and the ultimate outcome of your homeschooling years just isn’t.
You can’t control how your kids turn out. You can’t control what they learn and what they forget. You can’t control what kinds of jobs or relationships or lives they have as adults. (Gulp.)
You can control your own attitude toward all those things, though.
You can shape your environment now, you can choose your outlook always, you can influence your family’s direction in this season. You can hope and dream and envision and plan.
You can’t control how things turn out, but you can have an ideal in mind, and you can pursue it.
What would your ideal outcome for these homeschooling years look like?
The first things you write down might be really broad. Maybe something like: “We homeschool to get the best education possible.” It’s a starting place.
Now ask yourself two questions:
- What does that mean?
- Why does that matter?
For example, what’s “the best?” What’s “possible?” And why do you want that particular kind of education for your kids?
Write down your answers.
Then ask yourself the same questions again, about your new answers. What does THAT mean? Why does THAT matter?
Write down your answers.
Asking yourself why doesn’t mean your earlier answers were wrong. Instead it means you’re digger deeper, in order to be as clear and thorough and intentional as you can.
Keep going, asking and writing and asking again, until you hit the answer you’re looking for. (I think you’ll know it when you find it.)
- We homeschool because we want our kids to be immersed in a lifestyle of learning.
- That means we aim to respect who each person is, how they each were made, and what they each need.
- That means each kid might need to learn different things at different times. It means we honor each person’s interests and teach each child how to pursue their own passions.
- That matters because I want my kids to love to learn, and to know how to learn, and to understand that learning is a lifelong process.
Oh! There’s my deeper reason. There’s my real “why.”
Or try this one:
- My ideal outcome would be for my children to grow up to live happy, productive adult lives.
- To me, that means they would have a sense of purpose, direction, connection, wholeness, and fulfillment as adults.
- What I mean by that is that I want each of my kids to know who they are and who they were made to be, with their particular gifts and skills. I want them to explore how they can use their gifts and skills to be of service in the world.
Aha! That’s what I want to move toward. That’s an outcome that matters to me.
Your goals don’t have to be perfect. You can revisit them any time.
(Oh look, I didn’t include anything about my kids having healthy relationship skills. That’s important to me, so I think I’ll go back and add it in. See? You can always can make changes.)
Your own answers will be different. They’ll be specific to your family, your style, your beliefs, and your values.
Plan how to move toward those ideals.
When you know why you’re on this path and where you’re trying to go, it’s easier to make decisions along the way.
These aren’t the kind of goals that come with checklists, but I find that they help me stay focused on the long view instead of getting caught up in the everyday weeds. They help me think about how to order our days, and they help me remember what I want to focus on in.
I can’t control the outcome of my kids’ school career or even their school year. That’s not my job. Instead, I can show up each day, and I can be present.
I can remember why we’re here, and I can point us all in the direction I think we’re meant to head.
That’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of the day, now that I’ve closed my journal and set down my pen.
What’s your “homeschooling why?” Do you have an ideal outcome in mind for your homeschooling years?