Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What is Academic Excellence?

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We’ve all heard of those amazing homeschooled students who win the national spelling and geography bees. Or the ones who graduate from high school at age 12 and college at 16. Homeschooling does provide more opportunities for students to excel in specific areas. Students are free to progress at their own paces and to focus on their preferred topics of interest or talent.

But honestly, not every child has the ability to finish school early. Or to win amazing awards. Furthermore, as parents, we may not want to push our children in those areas. We may define “academic excellence” in different ways.

So what is academic excellence? I would challenge you to aim for excellence in your child’s education, but first you need to define what that looks like for your family and for each specific child. Personally, I want each of my children:

  • to finish high school with lots of options. If my child wants to be a doctor or an engineer, he will need good grades and good test scores and a good academic background. Yes, some of this is just “numbers,” but sometimes you need those numbers to open doors. I would hate for my child to choose a path when he’s 17 and realize that I haven’t prepared him to get there.
  • to be well educated. I want my children to understand scientific principles so that they understand the physiology of the human body as it pertains to health issues and to understand weather patterns and the physics principles they will encounter in life. I want them to know history well so that they can carry on an intelligent conversation or can relate current politics with the events of the past. I want them to have enough background knowledge so that they can evaluate what they read and hear for truthfulness rather than believe anything.
  • to follow their own interests and develop the gifts that God has given them. I want to enable them to be the best that they can be. Not to fulfill my aspirations for them, but to develop the perseverance and study skills so that they can set and meet their own goals.
  • to be a good example for homeschooling in general. I’ve met homeschoolers who cannot write a grammatically correct sentence in high school or who do not read anything beyond what they’re assigned in a textbook. Hopefully, this is the exception and not the rule, but non-homeschoolers will judge us all (and try to limit the legality we have to teach our children at home) when they see failures.  (And I admit that there is some sinful pride in here, too. I want my children to make me look good. Bad motivation, but I’m trying to be truthful!)
  • to have the “right” priorities. If my child is a genius at an ivy-league school, but doesn’t know the Lord, then he hasn’t found true success.

So what are your goals for your children? How will you meet these goals? I think these are important questions for any parent, but even more important when we are the ones choosing the curriculum and schedule, deciding whether to use textbooks or nature study and field trips or real books or to follow a delight-directed path. None of these choices are inherently right or wrong. The question is “What is best for my child? How can I help my child perform to his potential?”

I’d love to hear about your long-term educational goals for your children and how you take advantage of homeschooling to further those goals!

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