Monday, September 8, 2008

The Expanse of Goals

There is one thing about homeschooling that a great many people who don't homeschool do not understand. At least I suspect they don't understand it by the fact that before I was a homeschooler this had never occurred to me. If I can be considered normal...then I believe this one thing to be very misunderstood. Or very under-considered.

As a homeschool parent, I have the opportunity to look at the WHOLE child. The whole student. For the whole expanse of their school career. Does that seem obvious? Let me tell you about public school--just in case you've never worked in one.

Sometime in the week before school starts (sometimes only a few days before), each teacher is given a list of students. (Remember, my experience is with elementary--secondary might not work like this) That teacher then goes about writing his or her student's names all over the place: name tags, folders, Popsicle sticks, the front door, bulletin boards, grade book, etc. Each classroom is given a roughly equal number of girls/boys, black/white/Hispanic/other, Gifted and Talented/Special Ed, and whatever other ways you can think of to divide children up. If the teacher is really on top of things, she may have time to wander down to the front office and take a peek inside her student's cumulative folders. If they are ready. Or, she may be given a card with comments from last year's teacher. These can say anything from, "He wears glasses to read--make sure he has them." to "Do NOT sit her next to Vanessa R." to "Takes Ritalin each day at lunch." You know, the important stuff. Rarely will a teacher have time to discover that Tommy's parents divorced last year in the spring or that Matthew is a foster child. She'll find out in the course of the first few weeks of school, but...

Can you see that there is NO WAY a school can set personal goals for each student? A teacher has those goals for her class figured out (for her) long before she ever knows who is walking through that door. That's not to say that teachers don't work with children who need it, of course they do. In the limited way that they are able.

But as a homeschool parent, I was able to sit down last month and write out my goals for my 9 year old daughter. I titled it "Responsibilities of a 9 Year Old" and shared it with her so she would know what we expect of her this year. There is a wide range of things in that paper, from "clean up after yourself in the bathroom" to "find ways to be a good big sister each day." Some are physical goals (keep your hair brushed). Some are homemaking goals (learn to cook X amount of new things). Some are relational (being a big sister).

We also have the choice to make spiritual goals for our daughters. Not every homeschooler is religious, but it is a freedom we have. And I'm not saying that if a parent does not homeschool, that there is no way they have goals for their children. Of course they can and probably do! I'm only meaning to point out the superiority of parents who love their children and spend tons of time with them being the ones who make goals for that child over the school doing it.

It's easy to get focused on the educational part of homeschooling. There's the curriculum and the lessons and the very cool craft projects and the field trips and the experiments and all the other stuff that goes with educating our children.

Don't forget, in all the sharing of knowledge, to look at your whole son or daughter. It's a blessing that we are able to do so and one we should take full advantage of.

Check out the rest of the Carnival of Homeschooling going on this week here. A big thank you to the Cates family for hosting this week!


  1. Yep. Yes. Yeah. Absolutely right, Brenda. You are spot on with this.

    Although, it's funny. I was "trained" to teach to the whole child when I was trained to teach public school. You know, multiple intelligences and the like. However, looking back now, I wasn't very good at it. Understandably so, I now see.

  2. Hey I left you an I love your blog award. come check it out!

  3. Nowadays it seems classroom teachers are given an impossible task. With all of the standards to meet and tests to pass, and the lack of organization on an administrative level, it would be very difficult to give every child an individualized education. That's sad for the student and the teacher. I'm so glad we homeschool.

  4. Brenda,

    I always enjoy when you give us an inside look on the true state of teaching in the public schools. Have you ever read any of John Taylor Gatto?

    Many blessings...

  5. Interesting blog. I totally agree! I started homeschooling my son in the middle of 6th grade and what a difference it has made in every aspect of his life. I am a goal oriented person. Since he started 9th grade this year, I started a goal book (last year because a wanted a year to get ready for high school) with sections for each subject and copies of papers or tests that documented he achieved each goal. But, I also included copies of letters or certificates from things he voluntered for. Nowhere else would he have gotten the life opportunities he's gotten than by homeschooling! Thanks for the reminder- after a long day of trying to get algebra into his head!

  6. What an insightful and true blog, Brenda! Would you be willing to post or e-mail me your list of responsibilities you expect? Have you done this for every age once in school or do you have an age that you start that at?

    I'd be very interested in reading your list. Thanks!

    My e-mail is:


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)