Many of us are "accidental homeschoolers" who fall into homeschooling when something doesn't work out in our local public school. Some of us plan to homeschool from early on, some as early as before they even give birth! Whenever you came to homeschooling, we have an enormous responsibility when we take on this task, even if it is not on our radar to homeschool all the way through high school. It is important that we take a little time to think about our goals, or we run the risk of running off course. Now, I am not talking about some sort of 15 page guiding document, but instead of the Big Things that really matter to you...something you can revisit to "check in" once in awhile and see if you are holding true to your path. You may even revise this once in awhile as you gain more perspective and parenting experience. No doubt, you will personally experience a lot of growth yourself as you tackle a new role.
For families of faith, this can be embedded in your plans, and for secular families, the teaching of specific character traits and qualities from a secular perspective might easily be incorporated.
How should you approach this? Well, let me offer some suggestions:
1) Don't think about subjects to cover at first, start with less tangible goals.
2) Think about the very end, then work backwards...who would you like your child to be? How would you like them to walk through the world? Then, think about what you might expose them to that would help you as you guide them toward becoming the kind of adult you'd be proud of.
3) Think specifically about character. Don't make a huge list, but perhaps list five qualities you'd like them to exhibit.
4) Homeschooling is a way of life, so limiting your thinking to academics sort of makes you...well...public schooley. Nothing wrong with that if that approach works for you, but you are allowed to think outside that construct.
5) Think about your school days and what you wish had been different. Build in that change.
I will share with you what I created the very first couple of months we homeschooled. I created two short documents that were my framework. One is The LaJoy Homeschool Mission Statement, and the other is our Educational Game Plan. I did actually refer to them from time to time as the years passed, largely to make certain I was not losing sight of what mattered most. Now, I have had to change my plan here and there as we added children to our family and discovered that we were pretty far outside the norm in terms of learning disabilities and giftedness, but as I look at it now with still a few years to go, I can see that I was realistic, that I have held true thus far, and that we fulfilled just about all our goals. Here is our Mission Statement:
LaJoy Homeschool Mission Statement
When our children reach maturity (not necessarily 18 years old) and are released from high school it is our goal that they would:
1) Lead a God centered life.
2) Exhibit good moral character in all circumstances.
3) Have an understanding of themselves as part of a community, and not be centered solely on “self”.
4) Have a well developed intellectual curiosity and be self-directed, motivated learners.
5) Have a base of strong, practical life skills to build upon.
• We will always place “family” above anything else.
• We will recognize that learning happens in both traditional and non-traditional settings.
• We will remember that education is not a competition.
• We will respect each of our children for the unique and wonderful individuals they are.
• We will work to help our children discover their God given gifts and talents.
And following is our Educational Game Plan
Educational Game Plan
Minimum Requirements: Add, subtract, multiply, divide, fractions, percents, geometry, algebra, measuring, consumer math.
Additional: Calculus and trigonometry
Minimum Requirements: Parts of speech, proper punctuation, good sentence structure.
Minimum Requirements: Solid spelling skills, able to write fluid, well supported reports. Business and personal letters, organized directions, and well stated arguments backed up with facts. Note taking and outlining.
Additional: Creative writing and poetry, lengthy research reports
Minimum Requirements: Read and comprehend at 12th grade level, exposed to a variety of writing styles and reading materials including classics, modern, poetry, technical, fiction and non-fiction. Develop a large working daily vocabulary.
Additional: Be able to read and comprehend advanced level texts
Minimum Requirements: Understand the basics of American government and the differences between our government and other forms of government used throughout the world. Understand how a government functions and what the role of local, state and federal governments are.
Minimum Requirements: Have a well developed internal general time line for all of history. Learn about each era of history and how it was affected by what proceeded it and what followed it. Study world history from pre-history through modern times. American history and Colorado state history. World and American Geography and land forms. Understand the causes of each of the wars America was involved in and how it shaped our country.
Minimum Requirements: Music appreciation with exposure to many styles of music. At least 2 years of playing an instrument of their choice to develop very basic music reading skills. Recognition of famous specific musical pieces through the ages.
Minimum Requirements: Art appreciation with exposure to many styles of art. Working with art in many different mediums. Recognition of famous artists and their work through the ages.
Minimum Requirements: Understand the function of computers and digital photography, files and transferring, word processing, internet, email, web exploration, spread sheet basics, presentation software, charts, graphs and basics of hardware and software.
Minimum Requirements: Household maintenance of all kinds, both inside and out. Basic auto maintenance. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, household finances and budgeting, insurance, banking, investing, saving, dating, parenting, family life.
Due to certain disabilities, some kids will not be able to fulfill 100% of all our goals, but they will be close, and we will have attempted it at a lower level. For example, our 18 year old son Kenny has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the tech goals are beyond him, though he is capable of emailing, and researching online, and with his brother's help he built his own computer. However, understanding files and spread sheets really is beyond his ability. Altering your goals as your child's needs become more apparent is important, because flexibility means you can meet your kids where they are at. However, having basics set "in stone" so to speak means you can keep on track and not get bogged down in the minutiae that can happen when researching curricula.
Also, we all can experience "goal drift" when we hear how others have goals that differ from ours. When other moms have kids who are legitimately bound for college, and they share what they are doing or planning for, it can be hard not to get caught up in it and feel we are somehow failing. The truth is that many of us have children who are truly not academically inclined but we want them to receive a solid education. Some of our kids could go to college but prefer a different path. That "Drift" can happen when we compare, and lose sigh of where we were headed. Our Mission and Educational Plan brought me back to my senses more times than I care to admit, and it helped remind me of how successful we really were in so many ways!
Keep in mind that homeschooling is solely what you make it. You bring your heart, your desires for your children, their unique gifts and talents, and your creativity to make something special happen for all of you as you study and grow each and every day! The important thing is to "nail it down", don't let it be Jello!