Preparing Our Children for Purposeful, Positive, and Productive Lives
Even those who begin their homeschooling journey as an escape from problems in their public schools often realize down the road that they can be a vital part of shaping their childrens’ futures in a meaningful way. Here are three areas in which we can impact and enable our children by homeschooling.
I believe most parents who begin to homeschool, for whatever reason, eventually realize that homeschooling is just an extension of our roles as parents. Learning is a lifestyle, not a specific activity that only takes place between the hours of 8am-2pm. The nature of home education, and the freedom to create a stimulating environment, give us the opportunity to be more effective in helping our kids find their strengths, weaknesses, innate abilities, and interests.
Let’s face it- kids today are under an enormous amount of pressure from the expectations of parents, school, and peers. It can be discouraging when evenings you’d prefer to spend enjoying your family are instead dedicated to hours of homework; and sometimes it is a necessity to deprogram the kids from harmful ideas and influences they’ve been exposed to throughout the day.
Education should be nurturing as well as informative. Young people with no goals in mind seem to float through life, answering most questions about their futures and interests with a mumbled “I dunno”. The traditional school classroom often employs the shotgun method- expel the information, hoping something hits someone and makes an impact. If a child is a motivated learner in spite of this environment, it is usually because they have dedicated and involved family supporting and encouraging them.
Homeschooling skips the ‘middle-man’. It enables us and our children to find purpose in the information we absorb, at every opportunity. We aren’t studying dry facts for weekly regurgitation onto a test or quiz- we are looking for substance, value, and practical application. Creativity is encouraged, the imagination engaged. Life seems so much more hopeful and deliberate when one sees the connectedness of math with history, science with home economics, literature with art.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. ~Robert Byrne
Preparing for a productive future-
Purpose leads to productivity. There is nothing like the sense of satisfaction in setting goals and accomplishing them. What parent hasn’t viewed a picture or a Playdough sculpture crafted by a beaming child who exclaims, “I made that!” It seems that human beings naturally desire to build and create and impact the world around them in a meaningful way. What better way to encourage them to focus on productivity than for them to have a part in the reality of daily life?
Who doesn’t need to know the basics of household management? Who wouldn’t benefit from understanding proper nutrition- not from studying a chart or graph- but from planning and preparing healthy and delicious meals? How about learning car maintenance and the mechanics of the heating and cooling system in your home? Anyone here who doesn’t believe that money management skills are a necessity in today’s society?
Children who have time to rake the leaves and shovel the driveway for a disabled neighbor, or make visits at a nursing home can become adults who volunteer their time and talents for worthwhile causes. Doing business at the local bank, the grocery store, the craft store, and the library can awaken one to issues that affect others in the community. Understanding how to live in the real world infuses a child with self-reliance and awakens them to a world outside themselves. Giving children a vision of a productive future is a gift we can give them that makes the whole world a richer place in which to live.
Preparing for a positive future-
Even if you remember school fondly, take off the nostalgia glasses for a minute. Was the relationship between students and teachers cooperative or adversarial? How were the honor students treated by the rest of the student body? Were girls safe from objectification and sexual advances from boys? Which characteristics and personalities were rewarded with popularity and respect? What methods were used to ensure an orderly and uniform school environment?
What are children taught to value?
The reality is that honor students are often ostracized and targeted for playground violence, while teachers and others in authority are viewed as The Enemy. Attractiveness, charm, and athleticism are rewarded over moral backbone and academic excellence. The acceptance of peers becomes more important than obedience to or the approval of parents. Discipline is inconsistent, and with the advent of zero tolerance policies, sometimes unreasonable.
Do any of these things contribute to a peaceful, hopeful, and productive society? Would it be accurate to say these factors often result in the hypocrisy of conformity- outwardly agreeing with the majority while holding different beliefs inside oneself, afraid to express one’s individuality or faith?
Home education can effectively reduce peer dependency and the sacrifice of individuality to conformity. A parent is able to nurture morality, virtue, and critical thinking. Rather than a bleak endurance of one’s current situation, a parent can create a relaxed and soothing environment, and introduce a child to beauty and elegance in creation, in art and music, in literature. A teen can realize the pride of ownership, taking responsibility for their own future by focusing on their interests and abilities, even carving out their own course of study. If our self image is impacted by our relationships with other people, how much can we improve our children’s self esteem by enabling them to experience the satisfaction of contributing to someone else’s well-being?
There are positive health factors as well. A growing child can get much needed sleep, proper exercise, eat healthy meals, bask in the sunshine and play in the rain. They can move and explore and relax. How many times have you or a family member been to the doctor and heard “You need to reduce the stress in your life”? Just imagine the physical and mental benefits a calm but mentally engaging atmosphere could have on a child.
Another very important advantage is that sensitive and controversial subjects can be approached when the child is mature enough to deal with them. The shotgun approach I mentioned earlier is often detrimental to children who are not ready to be exposed to subjects such as sex, substance abuse, and violence. They can become fearful and depressed, and harbor these feelings for ages before an adult is aware of the problem. Parents are free to teach their children in the manner that best fits the individual child. Being able to perceive what a child is thinking about, and lovingly help them understand the world around them in a timely manner can produce more secure and confident children.
The entire family benefits from an embracing of a learning lifestyle in which everything becomes a source of wonder, of information, of practical daily living, and of FUN. The parent-child bond is strengthened, and siblings can actually become friends. The family is free to take vacations, go on field trips, pursue hobbies, and respond to emergencies in a way that benefits the family and the community, unhampered by a school calendar.
Optimism is the foundation of courage. ~Nicholas Murray Butler
I believe the family as a unit is foundational to society, and that good role models are needed. Studies have shown that children thrive in stable, two parent homes with involved parents, especially fathers. Boys need to learn from example how to be responsible husbands and fathers, and daughters to know how to be strong women, loving wives, and nurturing mothers. Where better to create a healthy environment, learn how to resolve conflict, develop a work ethic, observe and fulfill the needs of others, giving unselfishly, than in the home?
This blog post cannot possibly enumerate all the purposeful, productive, and positive possibilities of home education, but I hope it helps you to realize that education can become a pleasurable and enriching experience for your children and the whole family. If our families are joyful and our homes provide a variety of avenues for learning and the application of that knowledge, we can affect the world around us in a meaningful and beneficial way.