Simple Academic Goals Make for Wise and Pressure-less Homeschool Planning

“Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding”, says Dr. William Arthur Ward, one of America’s most quoted writers of inspirational maxims.

This is something I’ve always strived to live by as I’ve homeschooled my four children over the past 15 years.

Still, as I sit here, planning out the first six weeks of the 2012-2013 school year, I find myself asking the same question I ask myself every year:  If we school, according to this foundational belief, will my children be prepared for higher academic learning, should they choose to go that route when I graduate them from high school?It’s a question many homeschooling parents face, at one time or another — especially those of us who are continuing to teach our children all the way through high school.  “They’re not in elementary school anymore”, we say to ourselves.  “This is for real, now!” –  and we get concerned over whether, or not, we are “imparting [enough] knowledge” to these children that God has given us the privilege to teach.

I shouldn’t be worried —  I’ve already graduated one child, and he is thriving, academically, at the college level.  I can tell you, from experience, that focusing on inspiring change and acquiring understanding has not hampered my child in the area of higher learning in any way, shape, or form.  In fact, it is mainly because of that focus, I believe, that he has done so well in his college classes.

One thing that has really taken a lot of pressure off of me in this area of “imparting knowledge” is an article that was written by Michael P. Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, in the September/October 2011 issue of The Home School Court Report, entitled “10 Lessons I’ve Learned from Thirty Years of Homeschooling”.  Lesson number five is: “Strive for mastery in just two areas: language and math.” I go back to this part of the article every time I start to worry about whether or not I’m imparting enough knowledge to my kids, and it immediately calms my fears.

In lesson number five he says, “All knowledge uses one of two languages—either the language of words or the language of numbers.”  It sounds really simplistic, but when you really think about it, it’s true, isn’t it?

“The goal of your academic program”, he says, ” should be to achieve mastery in these two languages. For all other subjects, your goal should be a reasonably broad exposure.”  Mastery in just two languages and reasonably broad exposure in the rest.  Now, that’s a scope and sequence anyone can handle!

After all, he says,  “Your children are not going to master chemistry. That requires a PhD—for them, not you” — translation…KEEP CALM AND PURSUE THIS SIMPLE GOAL!

So, as I click back over to my other tab, where I’m busy planning the next six weeks of my eighth, tenth, and eleventh grade students, I’m going to set aside my fears and ponder the closing words of Mr. Farris…

“Teach your children to read and write to a level of mastery. Math skills should also reach a level of basic mastery. Emphasize these basics and all the rest will be added unto you.”

What do you think about educating in this simple manner?

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3 thoughts on “Simple Academic Goals Make for Wise and Pressure-less Homeschool Planning

  1. I think this makes a lot of sense–especially since after attending public school for all 12 years really made me believe that they are emphasizing the wrong things. English skills were ‘liberal arts’ and therefore less valued, which resulted in many kids who both hated writing and didn’t understand it. My sister went to a charter school that instead focused on building ‘an openness to learning’ instead of trying to force specific facts. The expectation there was that you have a basic skill set, be able to write very well, and enjoy learning for the process rather than the raw knowledge. Overall, I think she had a more productive experience.

    • Beckony, thank you for sharing about your experience. I find your observations very interesting. I think that writing is an area that most people struggle with. The more it is practiced, though, the easier it becomes over time. In our digital age, the ability to communicate, through words, is so important, I think. Although my kids chaff against having to write so much, I know that, in the long run, it’s absolutely going to pay off!

  2. This makes a lot of sense. I’m pretty critical of public education, with its low expectations of so many of our youngsters, the cramming of quickly forgotten facts, and “teaching to the test.” Most kids are not well served by educational policies. Better to help them acquire the skills and work habits they need to be lifelong learners.

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