I seem to be spending quite a bit of time lately helping moms talk through the goals they have for their individual children. They are generally concerned about helping their children receive a “good education” at home. That begs the question- what is a “good education?” As someone who endeavors to work within a classical education framework, the most obvious concern would seem to be growth in the core academic subjects. Is their understanding of history, science, etc. deepening? Are they seeing connections between the subjects and learning to think? While these are important, there are so many other ways to develop and expand your mind. Have we added to our moral understanding? Is our appreciation of beauty expanding? There is so much more than the core subjects involved in a “good education!” As the parents of homeschooled parents, we are responsible for so much more than the three Rs.
Academic education is the most obvious training when discussing homeschooling. Literature, vocabulary and writing, science, math, and history are a great base for academic studies. Building a solid understanding of these subjects will pay large dividends in the future, but all this is simply the beginning of education.
Character and ethics education helps build character as they grow, and critical thinking plays a large part of that. If my children leave home having read 100 classics, are able to do calculus, and can write like a professor, but are unable to discern bias or hidden motives in the world around them, I have sent well-educated patsies into the world for someone else to manipulate. They need to know how to think. Life is full of absolutes, in spite of opinions to the contrary. We must teach our children what those absolutes are!
As we build minds and characters, we also are building souls. A study of music, the Masters of the art world, poetry, and religion can give them something to which they can cling when life gets hard. And life will. All of these things feed the soul. It is important to me that my children have amassed an internal repertoire so that when they watch the sunset over the mountains, or sit on a beach as the sun rises, or as a new-born baby is placed in their arms, they have a song in their heart for that moment. Allowing them the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, paint, draw, or delve into spiritual things can increase what they have to share with the rest of the world. Giving them a respect for the sacred, and a love of God can anchor them “on the rock” when the storms blow.
Emotional education comes as we teach them to communicate and interpret life’s events with a belief that life is good. Teach them conflict resolution, positive attitudes, and a sense of their inherent worth. Inner strength and the ability to respond appropriately to the unexpected comes as they see these traits modeled, and are encouraged and reassured as they work to refine their own emotional maturity. Being “well-educated” is not generally helpful if you can’t handle what life throws your way!
No parent will teach all these things perfectly. However, we must do our best, and then remember their education will continue as they move through life. We are simply building foundations.