The concept of a mission statement for homeschooling seemed rather odd to me at first. Why do I need to formalize ideas about our schooling? But then, I started looking at curriculum. I got sucked in by the ‘shiny and colourful’ curricula, and by the ‘popular’ books and methods, and made some poor purchasing choices.
After sitting down with my husband, we talked it out and realized that some of the things I bought didn’t fit with what we thought at all. But what did we think? And why? I’d seen families talk about homeschool mission statements and comparing their curriculum choices to their statment each year to help stop them from getting distracted by the shiny and the popular and focus on their goals. So why not give it a go, I thought? It can’t hurt.
After many hours of fine tuning, we came up with one. And, you know, those families were right! For one thing, I had been struggling a lot with a unit study curriculum I very much wanted to do, which looked like so much fun, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it along with other things we wanted to do, and continue to challenge each child to the best of their capabilities. I kept trying to find a way to make it work. But, once we sat down and really looked at everything we’d written on our mission statement, I realized, as much as I loved the concept of a unit study, those nice integrated projects to show at the end of focusing on one topic in all subjects, the immersion of a topic…. it just didn’t fit with our values and ideas. More than that, it directly went against some of them! As much as the idea of those projects and immersions was attractive, it wasn’t something which would fit our family and our families values. The same thing happened to my attempts to do combined subjects. The popular thing right now is for all the children to study science (and other subjects) together, with slightly different goals and projects for each age, but I just couldn’t see it working for us and couldn’t figure out why. Writing this statement helped me to cement the ideas that led me to decide that I should not do ‘combined subjects’ for our kids, but rather, should encourage independent learning, in separate curricula suited better to each child’s skill.
This document has also helped to make the decision on a number of curriculum choices, and teaching methods, where our views differ from the popular. From the topic of introducing logic and critical thinking far earlier than many families, to the concept of being skill subject focused instead of content subject focused, even leaving the content subjects (formally) altogether until late primary school, to the choice to heavily incorporate art and creative skills in our school formally, to our decisions to school year round and happily break when needed without guilt, and even our choices to break down subjects into pieces rather than combining them, to allow our children to progress quickly where their skills lie, and take their time where they struggle, without being forced forward or held back by other topics.
So, here is our little statement. Yours may vary! We know many homeschooling families and they all have different goals and aims and most-important things, from the family that combines the children in all possible subjects and uses history as a core for all of their study, to the family which prefers to learn through life and avoid bookwork as much as possible, to the family that values poetry and art appreciation, to the family who wants to get school over and done with quickly in a chunk of time so they can go ahead and live life itself, to the family that caters wholly to the ‘learning styles’ and preferences of the student in every subject, to the secular family who focuses in on citizenship and ecconomics, to the family who wants to keep as close to the public school schedule as possible. We all have different goals, and different ideas on how to get there. These are ours.
Homeschooling Educational Philosophy and Mission Statement
1. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching
They will be a garland to grace your head, and a chain to adorn your neck (Proverbs 1:7-9)
Children will dislike parts of schooling, but it is up to us, as parents, to instruct them in knowledge. Our effort and teaching will bless (or disadvantage) them as adults, though now, as ‘foolish’ children they will ‘despise’ it, or at least some of it. We should not bow to a child’s dislike of a necessary subject, or allow them to broadly dictate what they will study
2. The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame (Proverbs 29:15)
Our children should be guided and directed in their study and free-time. This is not to say that even their free time should be structured, it should not, but we should provide good tools and toys, educational shows, books and games, not simply ‘entertainment’ without purpose or benefit. We should also guide ‘self directed learning’. This is not to say that they should not research what interests them, they should, but we should be aware of these things and not allow our children to spend excessive hours studying that which is not good or beneficial.
3. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
We should be discerning and accepting of timing in teaching. We should be aware of the times our children are ready to learn things, and accepting of the times they are not. We should consider the usefulness of interest led studies for the period in which they’re undertaken and consider what we believe the ‘seasons’ of teaching are for each of our children in subjects such as reading or science/history. We should also feel free to take a break from books during seasons of life where they do not belong (newborn baby, family holiday) knowing that these interruptions are temporary, and there will be many seasons of learning. To this end we will school year-round, to allow for these seasons to pop up without detriment.
4. He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge (Proverbs 14:26)
Our children need us to seek the Lord, and they need us to protect them from the sin of the outside world while they are still children. We are their ‘fortress’ and the only barrier between them and the sinful, ungodly world in which we live. This is not to say we should hide them from the world or shelter them from reality, but we should protect them, support them, and stand as the barrier. We should provide a safe refuge from the world, a place free of sin and full of godliness, where they can grow and enjoy and learn.
5. The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction (Proverbs 16:21)
Education should be pleasant. For the highest success we should select methods which are enjoyable, or at least pleasant to tolerate to that child. We know that children will not enjoy all parts of education, however, a method which is causing severe frustration or makes a subject very boring or distasteful will not teach as effectively and should be abandoned. In this same vein, introducing and forcing a subject formally, too early, can leaving a lasting impression of negativity and should be avoided. Rather, introduce the topic when the child is old enough to approach it with enjoyment and curiosity.
6. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23)
Children need to know that the ultimate purpose of their education, like all things, is for the Glory of God. They should know that it serves two purposes, to help them understand the nature of God, and to help them to fulfil God’s plan for them as adults. To that end they should be encouraged to approach all schooling wholeheartedly as to the Lord, knowing that their time spent learning is to serve Him.
7. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars,
for one star different from another star in glory (1 Corinthians 15:41)
God has created our children differently, with different purposes, strengths, and weaknesses. We should not attempt to treat them all the same in their educations or expect the same things from each, but rather train them in their weaknesses and encourage them in their strengths, catering to each one separately. In the same vein, combined subjects should be approached with caution, so as to continue providing to each individual child’s needs.
8. Do not neglect the gift you have (1 Timothy 4:14a)
God has given each of our children unique gifts and talents, and these should not be ignored, discouraged or set aside in favour of more ‘important’ endeavours. We do not know God’s purposes for these gifts but it is our responsibility to nurture them.
9. It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way (Proverbs 19:2)
Our children should understand those things which they are passionate about. Having a high interest in something without truly knowing and understanding that thing is dangerous. Our children should also learn not to rush into interests and hobbies just because they ‘sound good’, otherwise they may find that it was not what they expected, or they may learn it incorrectly. Jumping from one hobby or extracurricular to another on a frequent basis is counter to this value.
10. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105)
A deep and thorough education in theology and Gods word is a vital part of our children’s lives and our first responsibility as parents
11. Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men (Proverbs 22:29)
We should aim towards a high level of ‘skilfulness’, or education. We should not aim for the status quo, if all men were skillful there would be no need to differentiate. High achievement, especially in the ‘skill subjects’ such as Math and English, is of high importance. High achievement during the high school years in those areas our children wish to pursue as adults is also important.
12. A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps (Proverbs 14:15)
Critical thought is vital to wisdom. We must teach our children how to look at and examine everything they hear, see and do, rather than simply accepting it as truth and righteousness. Being self aware, and having understanding of other people and themselves will help with this. Thinking for themselves is vital in their lives and their walks with God.
13. Test everything. Hold on to the good (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
We must teach our children to test all things, including themselves, and be discerning in their decisions. We must teach them how to test, what to test for and why, so that they may learn to determine what is good and hold onto it.
14. Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices.
You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:13-15)
God made beauty all around us, which shows us he values beauty and creativity. We should mirror this value by encouraging creative though and expression. We should teach the creative subjects such as art and music with a method that encourages individual creativity, not general ‘correctness’ or ‘perfection’. We wish for our children to be creators, as God created, not copyers.
15. For HE vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28)
Our children must know how to learn and where to learn from. They should know how to research and back up their arguments, and how to develop and put forth a well thought out opinion based on fact. They should have skills in research and the ability to find whatever knowledge they want when the need arises.
16. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example
in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Our children should have high moral standing and maturity beyond their years (as compared to today’s standards). Their character is an important part of their education and their standards should not be set by their peers, but rather, by who they wish to become.
We Also Believe
17. Education should be efficient, and where possible accelerated, without busywork, unnecessary drills and excessive review. This is not to say that they should not use workbooks, but they should be well written workbooks designed to deliver a topic in a way that relates to a child’s life and helps the concept to stick. To this end ‘living books’ and other enjoyable books should be used wherever possible, and subjects should be related as much as possible to real life, hands on experiences. Reading aloud for the sake of education, however, should be carefully considered, as many read aloud methods of teaching can drag on and spend more time on a topic than is needed. Material should be carefully researched and chosen.
18. Our goal is to raise children to know how to learn, and enjoy learning. There will be gaps in the education we give them. There will be things they need to learn as adults. For example, we are less concerned with teaching them the entire history of the world, than we are about teaching them how to learn about history and fostering a desire to learn about history which they will carry into adulthood and, ultimately, they will learn and retain far more which is useful to them. The same goes for all other ‘content subjects’ such as Technology and Science.
19. We want to encourage a lifestyle of learning, and allow education to be a part of our lives. To this end, we will school year-round, with breaks when needed instead of by a calendar. We will also integrate education throughout our day, instead of a single sit down period, though a large portion of work will be completed during a single sit down period of ‘school time’
20. A child who hates math is very unlikely to ever become an engineer, and a child who hates science is very unlikely to become a botanist. Our children will use the skills they enjoy using. As such, while we must give them a firm grounding in all topics, there is no need to force a child to go in-depth on those topics which they have no interest or aptitude in. That is not to say a child who dislikes maths shouldn’t learn algebra, indeed they should, but perhaps they don’t need to learn calculus, or advanced trigonometry. A child who dislikes science still needs to know how plants grow and how the body works, but perhaps they don’t need to know all the little details, rather, just a general adults overview.
21. It is worth being aware of ‘learning styles’ and preferences to know how to best reach our children when they become stuck on a subject. However, these should not be catered to too heavily. The adult world will not vary it’s teaching style to suit someone’s personal preference in learning, and their weaknesses need to be strengthened, not encouraged to become worse. They need to learn how to manage all styles of instruction. As such, curriculum should be selected on it’s own merits, and how it lines up with our general values, and rarely changed once it has been proven to meet our standards. We should not select new curriculum for each child to cater to their personal preferences and learning strengths, or abandon an excellent curriculum for a lesser one ‘more suited to their learning style’ unless there is genuine need for it (prolonged lack of progress even with assistance, or genuine learning difficulties)