Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Great Education Debate - Part 2 - What Do I Want My Children To Learn?

I went out for a great dinner with a few friends last month and asked them "what are three traits/characteristics would you like your children to have as adults. " Their answers differed from what mine were. In fact, the more people I spoke with the more varied the answers.

If I only had to pick the top three traits for my kids I'd say I want my children to be; honest, empathetic and have self control. I want a lot more for my children too (including for them to be really good at making suppers LOL!) but those are my top three. What are yours?

There is a lot of talk in my world these days about goals and the importance of articulating a measurable goal. So I started brainstorming about what exactly my goals were as a parent. Afterall if I don't have goals then where exactly am I heading? Somedays I 'll admit i'm just surviving until bedtime, but for the most part I feel like I need a direction. I need a plan. Especially now when they are young and I rarely get constructive feedback about how I am doing. There are no quarterly reviews, no bonuses and certainly no raises and so I feel more comfortable if I can at least have a rough map of where we might be heading- short term and long term.

I'm not very creative so I often piece together what others have already outlined as their goals and try to fit them into my philosophical and religious belief systems. It was through this that I accidently stumbled on a list of things kids should know before they leave home.

It was an interesting list that included everything from how to plan meals and shop on a budget, balance your checkbook, change a tire, and how to write a formal letter. It also included a list of academic objectives that the parents had outlined as being relevant to them (I'd post the list itself but i'm not sure who to give credit to) . I was surprised because some of these things I didn't even know how to do.

And yet if I thought about it- I figure they might be helpful and relevant.

Which brought me to the question- what do I want for my children ?

I want them to have a solid understanding of the Bible- not just to be able to memorize texts but to learn it as a life guide and also a lesson in the history of the human condition.

I want my children to have strong social skills, to be able to navigate through different kinds of situations and be able to read people, communicate well, be empathetic and be able to see the good in people and understand that there is also bad influences too.

I want my children to be content and at peace in their family life, their financial life and their work life. I want them to feel gratitude and humility.

I want my children to participate as part of a family and larger community and therefore give and learn to be self sacrificing and believe that it really does take a village to raise a child and to be happy in general but still recognize their individual value and self worth.

I want my children to be educated- which to me includes the ability to be able to solve problems and seek help when they need it. But I want them to be hard workers who don't just find others to solve their problems.

I want my children to be self confident and technically I want them to read, write, play an instrument and read music, speak two or three languages, have a decent understanding of history, geography, math and sciences. I want them to be able to play a good game of soccer and dance a waltz. I want them to be able to have a conversation with anyone. I want them to be able to amuse themselves and to self reflect.

I also want my child to be able to love and to feel loved - always.

At the end of every day could I look at what we did and say that we did things that contributed to these goals (and I'm sorry to say it but I don't think watching Dora counts for learning a second language even though my 2 year old sometimes spontaneously speaks some Spanish words!)

To be honest, some days I 'm not sure how many of those objectives i've hit for each child. Especially on days when my oldest goes to school and the day seems to be a whirlwind of getting her and the other ones ready and dropping her off at school. Then when I pick her up she is exhausted and often falls asleep in the car. Snacktime, downtime, violin practice (or lessons depending on the day) and then supper needs to be made and then too soon it is bedtime. I'm struggling to spend the TIME with my oldest now that she is in school.

A few months ago all of my children came down with the chicken pox one after the other. We had an interesting time between being in quarantine and having pox parties. But I didn't dare send my oldest to school for two weeks then was christmas break for two weeks.

By the end of that month being at home I loved the fact I had *my* child back. She was the happy, helpful non sassy child I'd dropped off at school in September that had somehow been slowly drifting away. I hadn't even realized it until we spend that extra time together.

I had been expecting her to squabble more with her sisters, but they squabbled less. I had expected we'd all go stir crazy - but we had a lot of fun.

And yet I still didn't think that I would ever pull her out permanently and home school her. That homeschool thing was for crunchy granola mammas of 8 kids in denim jumpers wasn't it?

Yet the more I thought about the actual physical TIME i had with her each week and how much less time i'd have with her once she started dance lessons and soccer lessons and swimming lessons.....I started to be afraid that one day when she was 14 she might turn around and say " oh mom - you don't even KNOW me" and she'd be right.

I love my children more than I ever thought possible- and I've learned (through a lot of trial and error) that if I can "like" my children and enjoy their company then all of us have better days. But now I'm wondering what taking my child out of the home for 7+ hours a day will do to that relationship, and how it might hinder my parenting to/for my child. Sigh.

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