It was bedtime and as usual, I skittered from bedroom to bedroom like a Brambly Hedge mouse. I pulled my toddler onto my lap and started reading him a story, trying to focus as sounds from my other son's bedroom drifted our way.
The sounds of Daddy working on letters with our five-year-old. Later I saw a paper filled with scratchy capital letters.
Now this is probably not a big deal to most of you, but I forgot to mention that he is a reluctant five-year-old, one that I was totally content with waiting to start reading instruction until he was six or seven.
This little episode begged me to ask the question, of my husband and myself, what's the end goal in our children's education?
The End Goal According to the World
It's not hard to determine what the traditional end goal is: fill your child with as many facts as possible so that they can do well in school and go to a "good" university and get a well-paying job. There is evidence of this end-goal in the two-year-old who recites their ABC's while Mom and Dad smile on proudly. We see concerned parents of three-year-olds wondering which preschool will be the most academic and offer a firmer foundation in skills.
As a child grows, he or she is evaluated on their test skills and reading abilities, labeled as "below level" or "above the benchmark" indicating the level of worry that we should commit to that area. Thousands of dollars are poured into tutors and online programs and educational toys.
During the high school years, even after-school activities are focused on looking good on a college application (the eradication of SAT scores as a meaningful evaluation for student achievement will further pour on the pressure for these extra-curriculars).
And finally, if all the money and worry and labeling pays off, the child will end up in a university, where, if they acquire the prescribed knowledge and skills, they will leave with a piece of paper that says they've graduated. If their interview skills are sharp enough, that piece of paper will translate into smaller pieces of paper, money, earned in the form of a job.
I know I've taken a bit of writer's license to fill in the gaps of this end goal, but you can see the bare-bones of this process is to get a good school foundation, do well in school, go to college, and get a good job. I followed that system, and though it didn't exactly fail me, it left me disinterested in learning and unable to question what I was told to believe.
But What If We Choose Homeschooling?
To choose homeschooling automatically pulls us out of this cycle, if only because we do not have the competition aspect to propel children forward. We might catch a glance of what someone else is doing on Instagram and think we need to do more, but ultimately our child's success doesn't come from how he or she measures up to their peers.
We may very much want our children to go to college, but don't have our sights set on that when our children are five. If our young child isn't reading yet, we take a deep breath and remind ourselves that there is plenty of time, that just like potty training, this isn't a quick process and it'll begin when our child is ready.
We focus more on the every day process of learning, because it's joyful and exciting and right, and that is also the end goal: to learn. We want our children to learn for knowledge's sake, not for college's sake.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Goals
In Charlotte Mason's vision. we are guided by three tools of education:
Competition does not fall within the umbrella of these tools. Neither does forcing facts into our child's mind.
Instead, these tools teach us that we can create an atmosphere of learning, by valuing it, and placing our children in front of things worth knowing.
We can create a discipline of learning by instilling habits in our children that will encourage them to keep learning and growing as human beings.
A life of learning is developed by recognizing that knowledge is food for the mind, so we present it through living books and opportunities.
While using these tools, we can't help but for our goals to be different. Instead of competition and college, we hope for
1. Enjoyment of learning
2. The ability to continue learning
3. Knowledge of God, the universe, and people
In School Education, Charlotte Mason gave us a much-repeated quote about education. The goal of education is to set our children's feet in a large room, giving them many joyful experiences that they can grow upon.
“Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room,’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking- the strain would be too great- but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest." School Education, page 170
In short, the process of learning should be enjoyable, and not solely focused on the outcome.
In Our Home
Our children might go to college, and that isn't wrong. But the road to get there should be enjoyable, "all living." Pushing our children along before they are ready, or setting learning up as a competition, isn't going to produce a long-term love of learning.