Homeschooling has became possible for so many families thanks to the abundance of educational products and curricula that have become available, but I’ve also noticed how the overwhelming amount of “must-haves” can become a pitfall for many of us. Chances are, if you’re taking on the task of homeschooling, you don’t take your children’s education lightly and are very aware that a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders. While carrying that burden, we can start to believe that we must do it all or else we will fail. If our friends find a good product, we convince ourselves we need to use it too. I’m often tempted to add “one more thing” to our routine that I think will take their education to the next level. More often than not, it adds little value and is just another thing to check off our list. So I decided to put together a list of the things we value the most so that when I’m tempted to add things, I can ask myself if I would be investing wisely to meet our family’s educational goals. While there are certainly things we do outside of what I’ve listed, these would be considered our top priorities. Here is what made the list of things we view as critical in our homeschool:
1. Building Godly Character and a Biblical Worldview
Not surprisingly, this is the top reason why we homeschool. Public schools don’t teach this. We want our kids’ daily lives saturated in it.
2. Nurturing Strong Readers and a Love of Reading
This is a fairly obvious one, but I truly believe that once a child is a strong reader and enjoys it, his/her potential to learn new things goes through the roof. It’s been a priority for us in the early years and has paid off now that we have two students who very much delight in reading.
3. Familiarizing Them with Classic Literature
This is just a personal value of mine and may not be as important to others. For me, a good education has to include having read or been read to from lots of the classic works. We invested in a large collection of the Puffin unabridged classics and we hope to get through the majority of them by the time we’re done homeschooling.
4. Inspiring Creativity and “Outside of the Box” Thinking
Creativity is huge in our house. I will gladly invest in something if it inspires my children to create something of their own. It’s my personal opinion that there’s a lot of creative potential being lost in schools because of the focus on test scores. It’s a shame because this world needs creative thinkers!
5. Building Excellent Communication Skills- Both Verbal and Written
We live in a world where kids appear to have the inability to have intelligent conversations with anyone outside of their age-group (despite the fact that school supposedly “socializes” them). Our family finds it so important for our kids to be able to share their ideas by speaking articulately and writing well.
6. Giving an Understanding of the Big Picture Through the Study of History
I would have never guessed that this would be on my list, as a former history-hater. I never appreciated history or saw the value in it because of the way it was taught to me. Now I see how important it is that we understand our roots and learn from the mistakes made in the past. In our homeschool, we build so much around our history studies and I try to make it all as interesting as possible by using a variety of materials that enhance our learning.
7. Allowing Time for Pursuing Their Own Passions
This is another huge one in our house. My husband, Josh, would not have his own, successful, software development business if it wasn’t for the fact that he was homeschooled and was allowed plenty of time to pursue his interest in programming. It’s highly unlikely that he would have ever had much time for that if he had been public-schooled. If our kids show a special interest, we plan to build a lot of time for it into the school schedule.
8. Passing on “Real World” Life Skills
Cooking, cleaning, fixing stuff, finances, etc. If they’re going to need it to live on their own, we want to make sure that we’ve done our job to show them how it’s done. I don’t feel like a semester of Home Economics or Shop class in high school could even begin to teach kids what they’ll need to know in the “real world”. It should be a continuing thing that you build on throughout the years of their childhood.
9. Equipping Them to Continue a Healthy Lifestyle
It’s pretty simple. I want my kids to appreciate and respect the bodies God gave them. I’d like to see them making healthy food and lifestyle choices as they grow into adults. It’s an important part of our life now and we hope that they carry that with them after they leave home.
10. Laying a Solid and Complete Math Foundation
This is one of the core subjects that is on the top of my list, simply because of the way it builds on itself over the years. If you get behind, it’s hard to catch up. It’s also crucial if your student ends up going into a science field. I’m definitely not a math enthusiast, but for those reasons, math would not be something we’d let slide unless we were in a very dire circumstance.
*Bonus* Providing Opportunities to Travel and See New Places
This last point isn’t essential but it reflects who we are and what we enjoy doing together. If we had it our way, we’d travel the country in an R.V. and see all the points of interest and then we’d hop on a plane and see other interesting parts of the world. We aspire to provide plenty of opportunities for our kids to actually experience some of the different places that we’ve learned about. Obviously, this kind of thing takes a lot more long-term planning (and money) so we’ll just have to see what opportunities come our way in the future, but we hope it can be an integral component of their education. The great thing about homeschooling and having our own business is that it gives us a lot of flexibility for traveling.