Let your child’s schooling release her education

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

It’s the dawn of the new school year, so kids are still (mostly) eager to crawl out of bed, get out the door at a decent time, and get homework done by a reasonable hour. The paper is still on the pointed crayons, and there’s not too much doodling on the folders… yet.

Kids are getting to know their teachers, learn the ropes of a new classroom, and are hopefully making some friends. Feelings about a whole new school year are still mostly positive, in other words.

This is a great time to ask yourself, as a parent, what your goals are in your children’s academics. Is it to do well in school? Or is it to get an education?

There’s a fine line that separates those two objectives, in my opinion.

Our family’s current story

I’m no expert in this area, mind you — my oldest is just now in kindergarten. But I’ve been reading a few books and forming my philosophy on just what is an education for several years now, and I’m eager to see how this evolves as my children grow.

Last year my daughter, Tatum, and I used Five in a Row to do pre-k homeschooling several times a week. Since we lived abroad, and there were no decent, affordable schools in English anywhere near us, our default education choice was homeschooling.

I was excited about it, I was learning all I could about curriculum, methods, and philosophies, and I was even warming my daughter up to the idea. Together, we were going to embark on a kindergarten adventure together, with me as the teacher; her as the student.

But then we suddenly moved back to the U.S. for her first year of school, and our options changed. I won’t go into details, but with all the work my husband and I were going to have to deal with this next year during our year back in the States, the thought of homeschooling suddenly seemed much more daunting.

I wanted to homeschool. I was drawn to it. But God opened unexpected doors, and we needed to go through them. This was best for our family in this particular season.


My daughter, left, on her first day of school.

In short, we found an ideal school for my daughter to attend during our year here. It embodies everything I hold dear to my philosophy about education, and it uses Charlotte Mason methods to teach its students.

Kyle and I talked and prayed, we sought out wisdom from others, and we looked at our schedules and timelines. Yes, it seemed our daughter needed to attend this school. And so far, we’ve been tremendously happy.

You, the parent, are responsible

Here’s why I think it’s so terribly important to concretely decide your children’s academic goals — no matter where your child goes to school, you are still responsible for their education.

I was incredibly impressed that Tate’s school had us sign a paper, stating that we understood that we were responsible for her education, not them. They were the administrators and the teachers, yes, but ultimately, it is our job, not theirs, to education our children.


Photo by [ J ]

We are simply outsourcing the teaching of certain aspects of life — writing in cursive, basic addition, who was Henri Matisse and Johan Sebastian Bach — to our daughter’s kindergarten teacher. But we are still, and always will be, her most influential teacher.

Our society has drastically altered its view in the past few hundred years on what truly is an education. It’s only been since the Industrial Revolution that we even have a schooling system like we do today, with children grouped with fellow kids their age, required to sit in desks and take standardized tests. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those things… to some degree. But they’re not the definition of an education.

I encourage you to be mindful of the subtle difference between schooling and education. Simple Homeschool‘s tagline comes from a quote by Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interrupt my education.”

According to the dictionary, schooling means, “the process of being taught in a school.” Education means, “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

Scribble down some goals for your child’s education, and make sure that no matter the academic environment you’ve chosen, his or her schooling doesn’t interrupt them.

Finding your goals


Photo by Josh Pesavento

What sort of educational path do you want your child to walk? What is the best way, based on his or personality and on your family’s season of life, to achieve that education? What are your goals for your child’s growth this year?

Here is our one main educational goal for each of our kids, hopefully for each school year:

To lay down a solid foundation for a spirit of lifelong learning.

That’s it. It’s short, but it packs a punch, and it’s easy to remember. It helps me remember that these “school” years are just the foundation for the rest of our kids’ lives, and that these are the formidable years where their spirit of curiosity can be broken by the system, or they can be given wings to soar and explore and learn about themselves.


My kiddo, exploring the rocky shores at Glacier National Park this summer.

This one specific objective can translate into different things each academic year. For example, a few goals we have for our daughter this year are to:

• Start independently reading chapter books by the spring (sounds daunting, but it’s not for her)
• Tell time on an analog clock
• Learn about three historically important artists, musicians, and writers
• Learn the basics of cursive
• Memorize a chapter of the Bible
• Learn the basics of a sport of other physical activity
• Understand the concepts of addition and subtraction

And within these fields of academia, we have some desires for her personal, spiritual, and emotional maturity:

• Understand better how to show respect for authority
• Learn to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry
• Delight in being a little girl, and to not grow up too quickly, according to the culture’s standards
• Act justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with God

These specific goals aren’t really the point — they’re just examples from our family. The point is that we, the parents, are ultimately responsible for our children’s education, not the school system. We may use them as our resources to help us teach our kids, but at the end of the day, part of our calling to raise up the next generation involves giving our children a solid education.

Take a moment to think through each of your children’s academic needs, and make a plan to help him or her achieve them, in whatever school environment you see fit.

For more information, I encourage you to pick up a copy of John Holt’s classic, How Children Learn, and to read these posts from Simple Homeschool, even if you’re not a homeschooler (they’ve got great encouragement there about education in general):

What are some of your goals for your kids’ academics this year? What role do you think the parent has in a child’s education?

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Comments

  1. Tsh, If you thought people would think reading chapter books in KG was daunting, how about cursive and memorizing a whole chapter from the Bible! *low whistle* I thought my 5yo son could share similar goals after reading the first two…but I think I’ll remain thrilled that he like to catch toads, read by himself, and is kind and helpful with his little sister. ;) I do love the idea of making goals formally, as a family, for the child. Going on my to-do list.

    We just started a chore chart that allows him to earn “points” for chores, which he can trade in for screen time, extra dessert (he only get 1x/day), or a date with a parent (that’s a big one, 50 points!). I like the bit of routine that gives us, and I can see academic goals helping our focus similarly.

    :) Katie

    • Well, I definitely know that every child is different, and I can already tell that her younger brother will be much different, both academically and in his interests. These goals are all mostly driven by her natural curiosity and interest in these things… just encouraging her to expand her boundaries a smidge more. I definitely wouldn’t have these goals if I didn’t think she could do them.

      One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason is the emphasis on memorization and recitation. Her class as a whole is memorizing Genesis 1, and for her, I think the group mentality helps a ton. Not sure she could memorize the whole thing if it was just me and her.

  2. Education is a life-long pursuit, and one that I hope my children will continue long after they have graduated. We are training our children in character. This takes a lifetime! Information can be learnt at any time!

    My ideals have been challenged over the years and I remind myself that, “Nothing is cast in stone.”

    We need to disciple our children in the Lord, give them the skills they need to learn and create a hunger and appreciation for great thoughts, excellent literature and classic fine arts.

  3. Great points Tsh. I totally agree that education and schooling are not necessarily synonymous and that we, the parents are our children’s best teachers. I would like to add though that I think it is ultimately our children’s responsibility to learn, and that we simply model for them a life hungry for growth and learning, as well as provide the environment and the resources for them to pursue life-long learning.

    I aso dig John Holt and I love your one- liner goal for your children’s education. Sounds like mine!

    • Yes, absolutely! Good reminder that while we are responsible for the teaching, the onus on learning is on our children. Well said.

  4. Hmm, cursive writing is a bit of a stretch for most but not all 5/6 year olds. Developmentally, many do not have the fine motor control needed to participate in this task, so I hop other moms reading this don’t feel badly about it. With grade K we tend to focus fine motor skills on writing more legibly, using lowercase letters, using scissors ( you’d be surprised at how many kids this age struggle with this task), and developing enough strength in the hand to have the stamina to keep on writing. Just my experience as an occupational therapist and mom of 5.

    • I thought the same thing, too, Kim. But our daughter’s school begins with cursive in kindergarten, not print. I talked to some other homeschooling moms with experience, and they’ve said they have much better results when their child starts learning cursive first. With one friend in particular, she said she started her now 12-year-old in print first, and with her now 8-year-old, he started in cursive. The younger one still has better handwriting than his older brother! She attributes this to learning cursive first.

      So who knows, really. I don’t think a child will be impaired by not learning cursive first (I didn’t learn it until the 3rd grade), but I do think it’s interesting that my daughter is grasping the concepts of cursive at such a young age. It’s fun to watch.

  5. Tsh, I think it’s so important that like you said, parents assume responsibility for their children’s education. I know parents, like yourselves, whose children are in public school or private school and they are still making the choice to ultimately responsible for their children’s education.

    As I’ve laid out in many of my Simple Homeschool posts the foundation for guiding your children’s education is knowing who you are a family, knowing your values and goals and educating your children accordingly.

    • Renee, your posts are gold! I’m so encouraged by everything you write. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us.

  6. It’s funny that I read this article
    http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2010/09/self-esteem-v-standards/
    about the failings of our schools and found your article next in line in my reader this morning!
    As a teacher turned SAHM, I applaud your commitment to your child’s education. It’s so wonderful to see parents who are committed to giving their children the things that really matter. Enjoy every moment of learning with your kiddos.

  7. I love how you point out the difference between schooling an education because many people confuse with the other. It’s important to nurture your child’s imagination and stimulate their thirst for knowledge, especially after the school bell rings. We try to do that by reading, discussing the news, going to the museum etc. There are so many options if you’re willing to see them.

  8. As a former schoolteacher, I heartily agree that schools should not be counted on to provide a solid education. Not because teachers are incompetent or uncaring, but with 20+ kids and loads of pressure to teach to the standardized tests, it’s impossible to take each student from where they are and take them where they could be.

    I’m happy to hear, Tsh, you found a Charlotte Mason school. I’ve read up on her philosophy and appreciate its child-centeredness. Hope you all have a great school year! :)

    • “Not because teachers are incompetent or uncaring, but with 20+ kids and loads of pressure to teach to the standardized tests, it’s impossible to take each student from where they are and take them where they could be.”

      Exactly, Emily. I have so much respect for teachers, especially those that have 20+ kids in their classroom. I’m not sure how they do it and keep their heads on at the end of the day!

  9. Tsh, this was such a timely post for me! Our daughter is gifted but not thriving in her current school (which, in its defense, is a fantastic school, the best in the state!). I am so frequently tempted to pull her out and homeschool her, but for many reasons, we have decided that is not the wisest option. Your post reminded me of my responsibility not only to be aware of her educational development (as I certainly am) but responsible for and organized in setting her educational goals (which I have not done well yet). I look forward to making time to really go over those links you shared and come up with some clear, straightforward goals for her. I know that just by my setting them, her personality and longing to learn will see them achieved.

  10. Bravo for knowing the difference between getting the grade and learning. After many years teaching, I am still saddened to see many parents don’t. Some of the most memorable lessons I learned were the ones I gleaned from “failure”. School should be a safe place to make mistakes, and mistakes should be okay to make.

  11. This was a very timely post and I am so glad you wrote it. Thanks for speaking so eloquently the thoughts that were in my heart too.

  12. I don’t have kids, but I do believe that parents set the standards for their kids schooling/education, not the schools. If the parent doesn’t care, chances are the child won’t either. If the parents does care, the child will too.

  13. What a great post! My husband and I have had a lot of discussion over our boys’ education. We visited a Montessori school (the only private school in the area) but ultimately decided to go with public school. I have helped one day a week in in my son’s class for the past two years and noticed that, generally, the students with the most success are the ones whose parents are helping in the classroom. I think it’s because these parents recognize it is their job to provide an education for their children. There has been so much talk about the failing school systems when in reality I think it is the parents who have failed to step up and take responsibility with their time and finances.

  14. It’s great that you have found a way for your educational goals to be met outside your home, without compromising. I love Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and have benefited greatly from her writings. True CM schools are a rarity. Sure wish we had one in our neck of the woods.

    After homeschooling for 23 years, I put my youngest seven in a private school for 2 years – A covenant model school, where the parent partners with the school to educate the child. We loved the school, but I couldn’t get past the homework. I felt like I’d already given them 7 hrs with my children, and when they got home I wanted them to be All Mine. We ended up needing many nights and weekends to get all the homework, projects, and writing done. (And then there were the endless fundraisers.)

    I’m happy to be homeschooling everyone again and those 2 years cured me of looking longingly over to where the grass looked greener.

  15. I am a long time reader, first time poster. I am also a kindergarten teacher with my B.A. and Masters in teaching and I teach the elementary age Sunday School at my church. I almost always agree with all you say, and love your approach to purposeful parenting and living. I also agree that parents are the first and best educators of their children, and I think homeschooling is a great fit for some children and families! I would encourage you, though, if your ultimate goal is for your daughter to move beyond “schooling” and achieve a well-rounded education, to reconsider some of your objectives for your five/six year old (is this her age?).

    Kindergartners learn best through long bouts of uninterrupted play. Through thoughtful and purposefully facilitated play, children are exposed to math, science, and literacy, as well as social/emotional and problem solving skills, in a developmentally appropriate way. Anything facilitated by a teacher at this age should include a lot of movement, hands on discovery, and student initiated investigations.

    Like a poster said before, the expectation of cursive is not developmentally appropriate at five years old, but learning to understand the purpose of writing, transfer stories into illustrations and words and write with confidence are. Young children need plenty of opportunity to use play dough, chopsticks, and art materials to develop their fine motor skills before they are ready for the detailed curves of cursive. If your child has mastered the ability to write with abandon and sees herself as a author AND has the desire to learn cursive, than perhaps it might be appropriate. If you return to homeschooling, I encourage you to look up Lucy Calkins and her approach to teaching writing as an authentic tool that children will need beyond their schooling years.

    I would also encourage you to think about the Genesis memorization. What I value for my students (kindergartners and religious ed) and my unborn child is NOT that they can recite facts or memorize scripture, but think critically about the Bible (or any piece of literature, or what they are told) and the truths that are contained within it. What does Genesis 1 mean? What truths is God trying to reveal? What does this mean for us and our relationship with God? How can we live more in communion with God through what we discover in scripture? This is just my opinion, but if I my child ends the year able to enjoy, value, think and pray over scripture, I would be much more satisfied than if he or she could quote even the WHOLE Bible :) Same with respecting authority. I want my students to learn to respect and value ALL people, whether a teacher, principal or fellow classmate. I hope to foster not a blind adherence to “authority” but the ability to make moral decisions based upon what is just and equitable as well as the confidence and courage to stand up for those moral decisions, REGARDLESS of what authority says.

    This is not meant to be critical, because I truly value your blog and thoughts, but I am just thinking out loud and reflecting on the goals I hold as an educator and also for my unborn baby. I think it is wonderful that you are such a reflective and engaged parent – most of our society’s ills would be remedied with such parenting.

    Some good resources can be found at my school’s website: http://fg.ed.pacificu.edu/elc/Site/Resources.html. I also have a class blog at: http://fg.ed.pacificu.edu/elcblogs/whales/A_Whale_of_a_Tale/Blog/Blog.html that anyone is welcome to view!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Katie. I’m starting to regret posting our family’s personal educational goals, because they were only meant to be examples, not the purpose of this post. :)

      That said, I’d love to clarify some things, just in case any other readers are wondering…

      1. My daughter goes to kindergarten from 8:30 to noon each day. That’s only 3 1/2 hours. The rest of the day, she plays, reads, explores, wanders. That is actually one of the biggest reasons she’s at the school we’re at. That was also one of my main reasons to homeschool. Kids need tons of uninterrupted freedom to explore and learn through unstructured play. A huge amount. I’m a big believer in this. First grade in this school goes until 3… I’m not sure we’ll have her in school because of that (if we’re still living here).

      2. Our school is teaching the entire kindergarten grade cursive first. It’s not me pushing this agenda at all. I found this strange at first as well, but I see and understand its merits. My daughter has been writing for well over a year now — she makes up stories, writes her grocery and to-do lists during play, keeps a journal for fun… All this is self-initiated. She prints very well.

      3. Likewise, the entire kindergarten grade is memorizing Genesis 1, and then onto a poem in the spring semester. Each class in our school does this, through grade 8. It’s an essential part of the Charlotte Mason method. However, this isn’t her only exposure to Bible… not by a long shot. We talk about it in our daily lives in a very casual way, we go to church where she hears it read, and we talk about other belief systems all the time (we just moved back from the Middle East, where she’s lived most of her life). I completely agree that I’m much more satisfied if my child “enjoys, values, thinks and prays over scripture” than if she only memorizes it. Memorizing Genesis 1 is simply good exercise for her brain. Memorization is a lost art, and it’s good to do so. Even better when it’s quality stuff. Read more about the value of memorization here.

      4. I, too, want my daughter to think through what it means – really – to submit to authority. Not to blindly follow whatever is said, or not to think through the meaning behind what is asked of her. The thing is – I know my daughter. This is definitely not an issue for her. :) Just like most all parents know their child more than anybody, and therefore can tap into their heart issues, this is the case with mine. For other kids, it might be good to help them explore the issues of thinking independently, or not being a doormat, or learning to speak her mind. I’m not sure this will ever be an issue with our outspoken, extroverted girl. Again, my goals are simply examples from our life… They’re not meant to be prescriptive suggestions for everybody.

      Thanks for your feedback – I appreciate you being a reader. And I firmly believe that every family, every child, and every season should call for different goals, different objectives, and different structures. This is ours for now, for our one child in school.

  16. I love what you said about the parent being responsible for the child’s education. And I really like the goals that you set with your daughter, both for academics and personal. My kids aren’t school-aged yet, but I want to remember the goal-setting at the beginning of the school year – great time to do it and a good way to start teaching children about setting and reaching goals.

  17. We have lived abroad for eight years now (though home is France in our case). We have done it all with my ten year-old: Russian-speaking preschool for a year, unschooling, French school, English school, back to unschooling for one year. This year she has decided to return to school. It’s all good.

  18. Tsh,
    Loved the post. Thanks for posting and I appreciated the examples you used.
    As a child, went to an experimental public/ Montessori school where they taught cursive first and it was a good fit for me.
    As a teacher, I taught at a school where my 6th graders memorized 4 chapters of the Bible and 3-4 poems a year. Kids are sponges for memory work, and it serves them well as they enter the older years and are able to recall all that they have memorized in order to delve into learning more deeply and analyze .

    Thanks, Tsh!

  19. Now that I am pregnant and about to have a baby soon, I am already thinking about how she will be formally educated. Homeschooling always sounded great to me, but what with money issues, I know that I can’t exactly work a job and homeschool at the same time. Also, I was always concerned with social skills and how they develop if you don’t know anyone who has kids, and don’t have the money to put your kid in a daycare type place, merely for social purposes? Public school seems like a great place for a child to learn how to socialize, but not really a great place when it comes to accuracy of world history.

  20. Like you, I love it when schools and teachers get the parents involved. It is SO important that your children understand that you are behind them 100% in their education and their development. It is the parents’ responsibilities to make sure that our child is doing their homework, that we help them with projects, that we assist them and ask them about their schooling. Keeping open lines of communication will all aid in our children doing well in school.

  21. Thank you so much for writing this! It seems to be that just when I was getting really worked up about some issues that we are having with our daughter’s schooling you handed me the tools to unravel the issue. The part about breaking her spirit of curiosity with the system really hit me, simply because that is what I am/was allowing to happen. She is not gaining a love of learning with this teacher but being made to feel bad about not being able to adhere to standards which are unreasonable for a very young first grader.
    And even though I am about as involved as I can get with her schooling (I am a VP on the PTO), it is her education that is suffering in this system.
    Thank you!

  22. Wonderful post. While we don’t have to choose a school for our one year old just yet I love the idea of making an eduacted choice rather than just going with the flow. I love the ideas of making expectations for the year and setting goals. Thanks so much!

  23. Great article! Thank you for mentioning lifelong learning. I believe that it should be the ultimate aim of an “education”. I also agree with you about parental roles in education. After all, a parent is a child’s first teacher!

  24. As a former preschool teacher, I was so encouraged by your post, Tsh. I found that the children whose parents took this perspective were the ones who were the most curious and imaginative. If I could assign homework to parents, it would be to read your post!

  25. Nice blog here! Additionally your site loads up fast! What host are you the use of? Can I get your associate link in your host? I want my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

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