by Matthew McDill, July 2021
When I was in graduate school, an amazing thought occurred to me. “This is such great content! I wonder if there is a way I could really learn or remember this.” I am sad to say that as a public school student, I had operated almost completely with the goal of passing tests, completing credits, and getting diplomas. I became very skilled in completing homework and memorizing information for tests. I earned good grades and went on to college utilizing the same approach. It pains me now to think of all the fascinating and useful things I could have been learning. Unfortunately, much of the curriculum and drive for institutional schools are designed for tests, credits, and diplomas. Often, the result of this is that students miss the joy of learning just for the sake of learning. They also do not have the freedom and pleasure to explore subjects of interest that are not on the test.
One of the most wonderful aspects of homeschooling is that parents have the opportunity to change the goals of education and build their strategies and structures around those goals. It seems so strange that this is even necessary to say, but homeschooling parents have the freedom to make one of the primary goals of education learning. I do not mean learning in the sense of memorizing content that will appear on a test. That type of memorization usually has no lasting effect. I mean the type of learning in which a student can integrate new ideas and information into the framework of their worldview and what they already know. They can make sense of it and understand why it is significant. This type of learning makes its way into our long-term memory and is therefore accessible in real life.
This change in our educational philosophy also allows us to focus on learning skills more than is possible in institutional schools. There are so many real-life skills that aren’t on the test. Such skills are learned in the real-life contexts of home, work, church, and community. Sure, public school kids can learn about cooking, finances, finding a job, working in a professional environment, engaging in government life, serving in their communities, starting a business, and much more. However, home education provides the opportunity to spend much more time and energy to go deeper in gaining such valuable experiences and skills.
One of the most important skills we can teach our children is the skill of learning itself. Most homeschool parents have already realized that it is impossible to teach our children all the knowledge they need for life before they graduate. So one of the most important ways we can prepare them for life is to teach them the skill and love of learning. If our children enjoy searching for and gaining new knowledge and skill, and if they know how to do it, then they will be well prepared for life. In another blog post, I discuss three critical skills we can teach our children to prepare them for life: research, critical thinking, and communication. When our students learn basic skills such as these, they will have the tools to learn anything else they will need to succeed in life.
Maybe you are considering homeschooling, or perhaps you have recently begun homeschooling, and you are wondering if you should continue. The opportunity to emphasize learning and the love of learning is a wonderful reason to homeschool! If you are already homeschooling, take a moment to ask yourself what your primary objectives are for your children’s education. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of creating a homeschool that maintains a goal of teaching the curriculum just to get it done. Refresh your commitment for this school year to take full advantage of the freedom and flexibility you have to focus on real learning and to instill in your children a love of learning.