Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool
“The first time I really thought about what I wanted to do in life was a few months before high school graduation.”
My mom spoke those words on a recent visit, after reading through the kids’ compasses we’d completed in our homeschool.
She was impressed that her grandchildren, at ages nine, ten, and eleven, could articulate possibilities for their future–and that they recognized the way their lives could reach and touch others.
Shortly after Mom left last week I got a text message from her: “Could you email me more info about that compass? I’d like to do one myself!”
Schooling Without a Mission
I think many of us can relate to my mom’s initial sentiment. After all, our modern-day school system does not typically begin with the end in mind, or if it does, it’s an end that some stranger has determined is right for us.
The number one goal of institutionalized schooling is skills acquisition. Each student must acquire certain abilities–the building blocks of learning. How to read, how to write, how to calculate.
Sit down and work on it each day–drill until you get it.
And not a word (or many) about the why…about the what…about the who cares?
I can’t help but think this is backwards. We’ve neglected to teach and inspire with a mission first, giving a reason and a framework for the skills that follow.
We’ve raised a generation that can physically write, read, and do math–but doesn’t want to do any of it.
We’ve handed them the nails, hammers, screws, boards, and bricks, but they aren’t able to get on with the construction of their lives. And without a vision for the beautiful creation they have the power to build, what good are the tools?
What if we did it the other way around? What if we gave children a vision for the big picture of life…before we ever passed out the pencils? What if we raised kids with a mission?
If this concept sounds vague, here are three ways to approach mission-minded living at home–no matter where your kids go to school.
1. Talk mission.
Do your kids, young or old, know that they have a unique and valuable purpose in this world? Speak this out so often that it grows deep roots in your child’s soul.
My main goal and prayer for my children is that they find and follow hard after God’s purpose for their lives.
They know, because of how often we discuss it, that greatness lies in touching the lives of others–and that they could do so from the back of a garbage truck or as the president of a country.
Ways to talk mission:
- Create a family or educational manifesto that you read at the start of each week. Every Monday we read this or this in our homeschool.
- When your children mention a potential career interest, always point to the ways it could touch the lives of others. Don’t hover over how much money a child might make or the logistics of a job, especially at first. Use your words to make mission the focus.
- When you hear an inspiring story about someone who acted for the good of others, point it out to your kids: “Look how they followed their mission even when it meant risking their lives.”
2. Read mission.
Stories well-chosen speak to and transform the soul. When we as parents feel stressed over a certain skill that our children struggle with, we contribute more to their future success if we take their pain seriously, back down for a bit, and read stories about overcomers.
Ways to read mission:
- Use a well-chosen guide to direct your book choices. My favorites are Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Read-Aloud Handbook, and this from-my-heart-to-yours title!
- Read-aloud! Don’t overanalyze your book choices so much that you neglect to just get to it. If you can even manage to fit in ten minutes of well-chosen reading a day your kids will be further ahead than they would without it. For those whose kids are in the traditional system, try using commuting time to and from school for audio books.
- Christian families may find the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series an inspiring choice for the whole family. The Childhood of Famous Americans series is another excellent choice for readers of all faiths.
3. Live mission.
Nothing encourages our kids more than someone who models a lifestyle of mission and purpose. And guess who the most important someone is–you!
Do you feel like you know what your purpose is and what you’re doing to reach it?
Ways to live mission:
- Mission isn’t always about having some lofty, far-reaching goal. Often it isn’t about what we do, but how. Completing our daily activities with intention and reaching out to those God puts in our path–faithfulness in small things equals a life of purpose.
- Our own study and self-care are just as important to a life of mission as time set aside to serve. We can’t give ourselves fully to our mission if we aren’t growing ourselves. And we certainly can’t help others if we’re on the edge of burnout.
- It’s true that at this time in our lives, a huge part of our mission is raising our own children. And as we consider the big picture we’ll be able to love them more deeply, speak their unique love language, and eventually send them out the door better equipped to fulfill their mission in a world that needs them.
Kids with a mission have goals. They know their life matters, so they get busy learning the important skills (writing, reading, math) they will need to reach their highest calling.
Children with potential live under our roofs. Kids with a mission are unstoppable. Let’s make mission, instead of mere skills, our first aim–then stand back and watch what happens.
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” ~ Viktor Frankl
What is one aspect of your mission at this season in your life?
Originally published on Nov 3, 2014.