It’s 11:30 am and I’m still in my exercise clothes because I haven’t gotten to my workout yet. One child is crying because I’m cruelly forcing her to rewrite a spelling word she missed. Another has turned the downstairs bathroom sink into a geyser, and the third child forgets for the umpteenth time that the “e” on the end of a word makes the vowel say it’s name and makes the “s” buzz. Meanwhile, I have stuff I need to be working on and the house looks like a bomb went off. Why am I doing this?
Understanding my motivations for pursuing my goals helps me keep my focus on my priorities and avoid comparison traps. This holds true for working, managing your home, raising kids, volunteering, homeschooling, and pretty much everything else. So when I read a post recently that broke down people’s motivations for homeschooling into “religious, academic, dilettante, activist, and blue ribbon winner” I decided to give it some thought.
I think the list of motivations is fairly accurate (although I think the author left out “financial” – that is, parents who would be happy to put their children in a private school but can’t afford it), but what is more interesting to me is how these motivations blur. For example:
- I care about the values that my children are taught, and I want them to grow up understanding our family’s Christian beliefs, but I don’t think homeschooling is the only way to do that.
- I want my children to have the best possible education, and I want them to have instruction tailored to their individual needs. I don’t want my kids to feel bored in school or have a critical skill to pass over their heads without anyone noticing that they didn’t get it, but I don’t think homeschooling is the only way to get that sort of education.
- I care about education reform because a lot of kids don’t have the option of being home schooled and I can’t stand seeing things done poorly or illogically. And you never know what situation your family or your children’s families may find themselves in, so homeschoolers should care deeply about the state of education in our communities.
- If one of my kids wanted to devote his or her life to a particular sport or instrument or other interest, homeschooling would be a great way for them to do that, but plenty of dedicated kids pursue a passion outside of regular school hours.
So maybe my motivations include aspects of four of the proposed five types of homeschool parents. Individually, none of those motivations carries the day, but taken together, in our current situation, they inform our choice of how to educate our kids.
How does this help me?
Understanding my motivations helps me to keep my focus on my priorities. As long as we are homeschooling, I make choices about how we spend our day based on our priorities. We’re pretty heavy on academics, in a literature-based way, including Bible reading and memory and church history, but not limited to that. Although academics are important, so is free time to play and explore and try new things. The kids spend a lot of time playing make believe and inventing new types of musical instruments. We do what works for us and fits our goals and our family personality and I try not to get us off track by worrying about what other people are doing (work in progress).
Understanding my motivations helps me to make better decisions. Although some people feel strongly that you need to make one decision (about homeschooling, being a SAHM or working, level of ministry involvement, whatever) and stick to it for life, our approach has been to hold homeschooling loosely, thinking and praying each year about whether we should continue. Our job situations may change, I’m looking at starting a PhD program next year and don’t know what that will mean in terms of time commitment, and who knows what special needs or interests our kids may develop. When we understand our motivations, we are better equipped to ask the right questions. Is homeschooling meeting our kids needs academically and spiritually and personally? Are there brick and mortar schools that could meet those needs? Our motivations inform our decisions.
Understanding my motivations helps me to filter other people’s opinions and judgments. When I understand why I’m doing something, it helps me to accept wise counsel graciously and with an open heart without succumbing to group think or chasing after other people’s approval. If I’m clear on what God requires of me and what I want to give to my family, I can more easily sift through what other people think. Knowing that my family is getting what they need spiritually and academically means I can listen carefully to others without confusion or panic.
I really think this is worth thinking through. Why do you work (or not)? Why do you homeschool (or not)? Why do you read fiction (or not)? If you have any thoughts or things you’ve found helpful in this process, I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments!