I’ve long promised myself I’d write about goals, mine and theirs. For even longer (hmm, about seven years), I’ve promised myself I’d define my own goals in the messy, exciting process of educating my children. Sitting on the precipice of homeschooling nearly seven years ago, my main goal was to get my child out of an environment he found discouraging, depressing, and sensorially overwhelming and back to the relative peace of home. My secondary goal was to reignite his passion for learning.
Fast forward seven years, add a second homeschooling child, sprinkle in major changes on the home front, and mix with at least a touch of wisdom and a heap of reality. Goals shift. And grow.
I’ve long joked that my parenting goals are to raise healthy, relatively happy children who can be somewhat productive in the world and be the kind of people others can stand to be around. Pretty minimal? Perhaps. That list says far more about what my goals aren’t than what they are. Raising the next Nobel Prize winner, Ivy-League graduate, President or CEO of anything are not on my simplified list. I’d not complain if they achieved those goals, unless they were unhappy or really miserable to be around. Those latter two violate my not-so-joking quick-answer list.
But really, what are my goals? Here’s today’s list, in no particular order:
- Raise life-long learners. I’d like my children to know how to learn and desire to learn more. Only a small portion of their learning will take place under my tutelage. Most will happen on their own, now and as adults. Learning how to learn is partially taught (think study and research skills), partially modeled (they see Mom looking stuff up, asking questions, reading prolifically), and partially personally experiential (each child has to learn via trial, error, and reflection what works best for him).
- Raise children who have choices. Strong reading, composition, and math skills are nonnegotiable around here. If nothing else happens (and so much else happens) those skills must be in place. Sure, you don’t want to be an engineer today. But, if in eight years you want to give engineering classes a try, you’ll have the math to do it. Ditto for my math/science dude and writing. Communicating clearly is a must, even for a child who would rather not write.
- Raise children with exceptional thinking skills. I don’t care if they can recite Latin declensions, the order of the Kings and Queens of England, or the elements of the Periodic Table of the Elements. I care that they can think clearly and critically when reading, listening, writing, and speaking. (Nothing against memorization, but information is easy to find today. Knowing how to unscramble and interpret what one finds is essential.)
- Raise children who are free thinkers. Sure, some parts of some days I would really appreciate just a bit of lemming behavior (see, everyone else is putting dirty clothes in the hamper, showing their work in math, and using a napkin). But really, I’d prefer they be able to think for themselves on the playground, in the workplace, in their churches, in their community, in their country.
- Raise children who are compassionate. Compassion, even for those who are different in appearance, actions, lifestyle, faith, and nationality. Parents model compassion (or not), but learning about the what we share with those we think of as different (in race, belief, lifestyle, gender, age, religion, etc.) helps quite a bit, too.
- Raise children who play with others. I joke about wanting my kids to be and become people other folks can stand to be around, but getting along with those whom don’t tick the way you tick is hard. Kind speech and actions get you a long way in this world. So does regular bathing and deodorant.
- Raise children with self-discipline. After all, it takes discipline to pay your bills, feed your family, get to work, and keep the cat alive. I don’t have a curriculum for this one, either, but it’s a biggie for my older one this year, and he’s catching on.
- Raise children who are relatively happy. Alas, this is not terribly teachable, although I often remind them that most of life is , on a scale of 1 to 10, neither a 1 nor a 10. We spend most of our lives toward the middle of that emotional bell curve, and that’s okay. Well, skewed a bit to the right of center is nice. Beyond that, I pontificate about knowing oneself, choosing a line of work/way of life that matches temperament and interests, etc. Time will tell.
- Raise boys who know it’s good to be tender, caring, and vulnerable. It’s okay to be sad, to cry, to touch. Really.