April 13, 2012

Starting with the end in mind

Lately I have found myself having many conversations about our educational philosophy and how we made the choices we have on our home school journey.  I keep coming back to the same answers.  We started with the end in mind.  We knew what we wanted our kids to achieve and experience in their education and what we wanted them to be prepared for, then we worked backwards.

We wanted our kids to grow up to be life long learners, confident, well rounded, contributing citizens who were ready for college.  Each family will have a different picture of their end for their unique kids an that makes sense.  Each family will then need to find their own path to reach it.  The one thing I would add, stepping up on soap box, is all kids should have the right to be prepared for college.  Over recent years I have heard more and more, well my kid does not want to go to college, or probably will not.  That is fine if they choose not to but as educators and parents it is our responsibility to make sure that option is open to them and to give them rigorous enough studies and schooling experiences to leave that door wide open for them.  Let them make that call their senior year, but make sure they have the option open to them, stepping off soap box now.

Back to our little unique family.  Well rounded life long learners, that is our ultimate goal.   I tell my kids this often and I sometimes remind myself of it daily when their unique learning styles are driving me crazy.  To build life long learners you need to help kids fall in love with learning and knowledge, something that I believe is rarer in our modern educational system.  This does not mean making school "fun", but rather rewarding.  Making the child take ownership and feel pride (the good kind) in their achievements and successes and giving them the passion and determination to see through the hard things and the boring things to make it to the rewards.  A life long learner is someone who loves to learn and just can not help but to continue to learn and grow every day of their life, long after they are required to work on their education.  This is what I want for my children and for my students.

When I talk to my children about their education I often share our overall approach to their education.  I explain how in the end I want to give them three skill sets to help them in their lives.

1. Research
2. Data Analysis
3. Communication

Life long learners need to be able to find information on any topic they want to learn about.  Research skills are important.  Being able to find data now is not hard, being able to find good and relevant data is.  The first goal is teaching the kids how to find out information about whatever they need and giving them the reading skills to be able to understand it.

Having information means nothing unless you can distill it and know how to utilize it.  Data analysis is very important for any life long learner, high school or college student, or any employee who needs to deal with data.  Having the skills to allow you to take raw data and comprehend it in useful ways is essential.  Here I talk to my kids about the skills of discerning fact from opinion, discovering bias, finding connections across disciplines and learning to add new information into your current understanding of the world.  Learning to take the good and apply it in your understanding of a situation, a subject or the world at large.  This is the second skill set I want them to excel at.

Lastly having knowledge is not that useful unless you do something with it.  I want my children to be able to communicate effectively in the world about what they know.  They need to be able to speak, write and present effectively.  In our world that still includes written essay type communication but more importantly it includes things like power point, twitter, facebook, video presentations, and learning to communicate in every available media.  So in our home school we work on our communication skills.

In the end if my children end up with these skills, the classes and schooling they need to be successful in college and they have had a well balanced life filled with friends, sports, service, church, and other activities we will have achieved our goals. 

Remember your goals are different than mine but I encourage you to think through your own goals for your own family.  Start with the end in mind, work toward those goals and the rest will fall naturally into place. 

1 comment:

  1. I can't think of a better goal for your children than to have them become well-rounded life long learners. After graduating home school, my son needed to learn a trade. Rather than spend tens of thousands on trade school, he researched, read and learned what he needed to know to pass certifications--and passed with flying colors. Those who know how to learn through research and study have a skill set not many people have these days.