Today I have guest author Rachel Starr Thomson, sharing on homeschooling with a vision and goal setting.
“I’m not a real homeschool mother—I’ve just been faking it for years.”
“My son is eight years old and he can’t read, and I feel like such a failure.”
“I just can’t seem to get scheduled. Maybe the kids would be better off in school.”
As a homeschool graduate, I can look back and see lots of things my parents did wrong, but the one wrong thing they didn’t do was give up. They had a vision for what they were doing that kept them going no matter how many obstacles they encountered.
In Bunyan’s beloved allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian passes through a place called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He is compassed about with danger—a bottomless pit on one side, a swamp on the other, and evil, taunting, blasphemous voices in his ears. He barely makes it through.
Later, however, another band of pilgrims pass through the Valley without much trouble. What made the difference? The second band made their journey during the day, while Christian’s was made at night. They had vision, where he only had darkness.
No matter how many difficulties fill your path, if your vision is clear, you will make it through.
What are your goals as a homeschooling family? If you don’t know, you’re guaranteed not to reach them. Just exactly why are you doing what you’re doing?
Your vision for homeschooling may be largely an academic one. You homeschool because you see the learning potential in a home situation, because you’ve seen what the public schools are turning out and want better educated children than that, because homeschoolers always seem to be winning the National Spelling Bee.
On the other hand, you may be homeschooling for religious reasons. You may be trying to build a strong family dynamic. Perhaps you homeschool in order to allow your children the freedom to experience life differently than most kids their age.
Whatever your reasons for homeschooling, it’s important that you define them. Talk with your spouse first, then gather the family together and discuss the reasons for doing what you’re doing. Find out what your kids want out of these years. Write out a Mission Statement for your homeschool.
Once you know why you do what you do, you’ll be able to write out specific goals that build on a foundation of purpose. Since homeschooling is bigger than mere academics, these goals don’t all have to be academic in nature.
They may include things like learning new work habits, finishing a grade in a set period of time, growing a garden, or forming a cross-cultural friendship.
Written goals tend to evolve over time. Some will be added, others dropped when they prove to have less value than you thought. As long as your mission is clear, it won’t hurt anything to have the specifics go through changes. In turn, as you reach (or don’t reach) certain goals, the results will help to deepen and develop your underlying purpose.
The way you define “success” or “failure” in your homeschool depends on your mission. Some homeschooled kids are mediocre students, yet they shine in practical abilities, personal character, and good old-fashioned common sense.
If your son struggles to make the grade in math, are you a success or a failure as a homeschooling parent? That depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
I was homeschooled from the first grade through the twelfth. When I was thirteen, I was still struggling to learn my multiplication tables. The same year, I wrote my first complete novel—which an editor from a major publishing house praised as “clever and well-written” (he had no idea how old I was).
If my parents had chosen to measure their success by looking at the math an average thirteen-year-old in a public school was doing, they would have deemed themselves miserable failures. But they did not use that stick to measure themselves. A large part of their vision was to develop each of their twelve children’s creative talents. In this they were a great success.
There are a million-and-one measuring sticks out there. SAT scores. “When I was your age.” Little Jimmy down the street. The Homeschool Wonder Mom you saw at the convention last week.
Although these may all embody things you want to emulate or strive for, unless a measuring stick has exactly the underlying mission you have, it’s irrelevant. You don’t condemn a Mackintosh because it doesn’t taste like a Granny Smith.
Comparison-making is an easy habit to fall into, but it’s ultimately destructive. Look again at the Mission Statement you wrote: there’s your measuring stick. Admire others, learn from them, but don’t allow someone else’s victories to bury you in defeat.
There will be times when you look at your own, personal, written vision and realize that you’re nowhere close to living up to it. Of course, no one expects you to do everything all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day—but it is necessary to start building. If you’re not moving toward your goals at all, you have a problem.
Review the vision and go over your goals again. Then take a look at your daily routines and figure out what needs to change.
- Do you need to get up earlier in the morning?
- Break down a math program into bite-size pieces?
- Go out and volunteer once a week?
Do everything you can that will move you toward your goals. Eliminate distractions and bad habits.
If you want to run a one-minute mile, you have to train. One of homeschooling’s greatest challenges—and blessings—is the fact that no one else is going to do it for you. You don’t have a school board to decide how or what you should teach. You don’t have a guidance counselor to tell you to develop your gifts. Running with your vision will take discipline and hard work.
Like the pioneers of old, you’ve come to a good land. Figure out what you want and go after it with a single-eyed focus. There will be discouragements. You probably won’t reach some of your goals. There will always be someone who looks like they’re doing a better job than you are. It doesn’t matter. Don’t give up, and you will cross the finish line
Rachel Starr Thomson is a homeschool graduate, author, editor, and writing coach. Check out www.rachelstarrthomson.com for free downloads and more, including Part 1 of Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled, a book of humourous essays on growing up homeschooled, and the complete e-book of Rachel’s young adult fantasy novel, Worlds Unseen.