As in any large project, stating your purpose for your homeschool is an essential part of the process. What are you trying to do here? What do you expect to do? How do the struggles and dreams that you have had over the years make you a better teacher? How do you like to learn? How do you best teach? How do your children best learn? Where do they struggle? What do they dream about? Where are they in their studies? What do they need? What do they want? What does your family need from this experience? Ask all these questions. Pray about them. Discuss them with your husband or a fellow home educator or both. Where is God leading you?
Write down your purpose. Refine it. See if it rings true. Keep it handy. Check in with it often.
Now. You have to make up your own purpose for your own family, but this is the one that Jon and I decided would work well at our house after a lot of thought and prayer. Our official family purpose is: “To seek after God and develop wisdom and virtue as we grasp the fullness of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness that God provides for us.” It is important to us that our children are seeking after God and His purposes and not just seeking grades (good or not). We want them to develop godly wisdom and virtue and to find Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in the process. We work to set their feet in a large room and to teach them to care as much as we lead them to learn to know.
Now that we know what we are trying to do, we can look for the best way to accomplish it. You might try more than one idea before you hit on the thing that will work in your house. You might have some failure in the process. And, as you and your kids change, you may have to shift your methods. Your school day will be vastly different when your kids are 9, 5, and 4 then it will when your kids are 15, 12, and 11 and when they are 19, 15, and 14. Your purpose should remain steady, though. You’ll know where you are going for sure, and the plan will have room to develop as you go.
That’s a really good thing, because I don’t control all of these boys’ choices, and I am losing more and more control every day. That isn’t a bad thing as much as a sign of growth. Gone are the baby days, when their boundary was the length of my reach or the baby gates on either side of the playroom. Actually, even the playroom is gone – turned into the household library because their toys now fit in their rooms and naps are a thing of the past. We can compel them to make right choices through explanation, reward, or discipline, but there are many things in their days now that we can’t make them do. I can’t make a boy copy something neatly. I can assure him that he can do it, I can encourage him along. But it has to be his decision to pick up the pen and make marks on his paper. I can’t make a boy write every step of his math problem down, but I can encourage him to develop the habit of doing so because it will make high math much simpler. Also, the more he writes, the faster he will get at writing and the easier it will be for him. There are other things I can’t will a boy to do if he doesn’t want to. I can make his life rather uncomfortable if he refuses, but I can’t make a boy weed a garden, practice an instrument, tie his shoes, or load the dishwasher. Yet, these tasks need doing, and most need doing daily. We accomplish many things through teamwork or duty to household or orchestra. But at some point, each of us has to choose to do what is right. That choice is no longer mine. It is his.
One particular area is made easier by knowing our purpose. Having a purpose helps us to limit activities for each student in order that we may have a plethora of good things without feeling overwhelmed. Even with this knowledge, I struggle to give everyone what they need without going overboard. This semester that we are just finishing was particularly hard because activities were spread out into slots that we needed to have free for schoolwork at home. For years, I could control the whole schedule. Now, we have members of two different orchestras, violin lessons, basketball, and theater, as well as park trips, nature study, field trips, and time with grandparents. All of these things are blessings, but I said No to spring soccer this year because we can’t do one more thing. Josiah and Gideon played soccer last spring. Rec league spring soccer is fickle in Oklahoma because it takes place during the rainy season. Our schedule is set enough that if a practice is rescheduled or postponed we probably won’t make it. Last year, we missed half the practices and several games. This year, I just said no. Not “No” to meeting friends at a park with a soccer ball… just “No” to the scheduling nightmare that last spring became. I know that doing a soccer league would be fun for the boys, but it would interfere with our purpose.