Success on Paper or Success in Life – Which Would You Choose?

Do you consider your home education to be a success if all the check boxes of “what a child should know by 12th grade” are completed or do you have another concept of what would make your homeschooling journey a success?  When it comes to educating the children what is your goal?

I have been homeschooling for a number of years and have never really thought  past the academics of it all. However, in October 2009 I went to my first homeschooling retreat down in Destin, FL. And one of the speakers, Rhea Perry of Educating for Success, talked about the importance of “Success Education.” It was great! This lecture made a huge impression on me because I don’t feel this gets discussed in the homeschooling community let alone the world at large. And it should.

Living in one of the more highly regulated homeschooling states it is very easy to get caught up in making sure that your children hit all of the artificial benchmarks set by the educational system. You know, “Let’s study for that PSSA so that you can get promoted to the next grade!” or “Let’s get that portfolio ready for the evaluator to tell us what a good job we’re doing this year.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the benchmarks of life? What about knowing how to be financially self-sufficient? What about having an understanding of how economics works and using that knowledge to create a financially sound lifestyle? What about developing the skills and experience your children need to fulfill their passions and interest in the secular world? How about not just getting by but prospering so that you can freely devote time to helping others? Isn’t that even more important?

The form of education that is dispensed in schools (and unfortunately in many homeschooling curricula) is designed to create workers for the workforce, not to inspire or encourage original thinking and experimentation. It trains people to get the right answers, do what you’re told and keep your head down or you might standout.  The goals today are a world apart from the way people were educated in early America. John Taylor Gatto, author of “Underground History of American Education” states:

“In early America young people in America were expected to make something of themselves, not to prepare themselves to fit into an established hierarchy. Young Americans were allowed close to the mechanisms of things. This rough and tumble practice kept social class elastic and American achievement in every practical field superb.”

As discussed at the seminar, a parent’s purpose is to:

  • Prepare our children for their life’s work so that they can make a comfortable living and be self-sufficient
  • Their education should have practical real life education and apprenticeships
  • We need to start with the end in mind and plan appropriately for each child
  • Our  program should provide not only be academic, but include spiritual, emotional and financial education
  • We’re also here to help them prepare for the future so that they can help others make a difference in their lives.
  • And most of all not just get by or fall into a job, but to be proactive about structuring their own lives.

So what does all of this mean to us as parents? Our children are NOT too young to begin their life’s work. We need to stop and think about what our goal of home education is. Is it just to complete the “boxed curriculum” that generates worker drones who watch TV and complain about their lot in life? Or is it to train our children to have lives that make a difference in the world?

When we limit them by saying things like, “Oh let them have fun because they’ll be working for the rest of their lives” aren’t we condemning them to the lifestyle of financial struggles that we’ve experienced. Why not encourage them to take what they’re learning and find ways to use it to make their adult lives a balanced journey to be enjoyed and shared with others?

Children have the capacity, and indeed the desire, to contribute to the family’s well-being. Nowadays we think it’s “cute” when they say they want to open up a lemonade stand to help earn money, but in the past they were expected to be an asset to the family. Looking back on history we’ll see:

  • Abraham Lincoln was 8 when he helped his father build a brand new log home;
  • Thomas Edison by 14 had hired, fired, motivated and managed more people than 99% of the college graduates of his (and our) day;
  • When Mary Young Pickersgill was asked to make a flag so big that “the British have no trouble seeing it from a distance.” Her 13-year old daughter helped her. And now that flag is in the Smithsonian in the Museum of American History;
  • Alexander Graham Bell only attended school for five years from ages 10 to 14, but never stopped learning. He read books in his grandfather’s library and studied tutorials about teaching the deaf;
  • Sir Isaac Newton was called “a poor student” by his teachers because he was more interested in making mechanical devices than in studying. Amongst his many inventions he made a windmill that could grind wheat and corn, a water clock, a sundial and left the world Calculus amongst many other things.

These children had not only the knowledge that comes from books, but real life experience and application of the information that they learned. And those that can apply knowledge become wise and prosper. For my part, my goal is to provide my children not only with the academics that they need, but to help them find their life’s path through real life experiences. I don’t want them to have to learn about finances through trial and error like I did, but have that education at a young age so that they can begin making wise decisions right now. So what would you choose?

Please feel free to comment on what you think about this type of “success” focus. And if you’ve already been using this as your goal post, what types of things are you doing with your kids to help reach it.

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