The BHAG of homeschool

(BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal, term coined by business guru Jim Collins in Built To Last)

What I want to impart to my children through homeschooling

Oh, lots of things, like a commendable knowledge of Shakespeare. And a firm grasp of the basic laws of physics. And enough history to serve as wise caution to their contemporaries. Maybe some programming skills and how to draw more than stick figures.

It’d be nice if their Editor Mama wasn’t embarrassed by their writing, either.

But of course I have loftier goals. Super-noble ones, maybe. Idealistic ones, without a doubt.

So, in my whopping second year of homeschooling, while I am still wet behind the ears and not exhausted yet (at least not every day), while I’m still enthusiastic, herewith, my four over-arching goals in homeschooling (however long it lasts, and certainly even outside of it). I’ve even included my naïve “how tos.”

  1. I want them to love learning.

Humans are born loving to learn; school so often sucks the life out of that natural joy. I don’t want my kids to lose it. I want them to remain intensely, unapologetically curious all of their lives. It expands life far beyond circumstance, curiosity does. Sure, they’ll need to learn some things they’re not already interested in; that’s life. But I want those begrudging, tolerant periods to be few and far between.


How do I do this?

By being curious myself. Reading the sports section even when I don’t much care. Listening to friends – okay, making friends – of truly divergent backgrounds (not just the variations on a white suburban theme, even if, God help me, that’s what I am). Speaking more questions than answers…or even opinions.

I feel certain if I’m enthusiastically curious about all manner of things, my children will be too.

  1. I want them to learn how to learn.

I want them to have the skills to teach themselves – the reading, the researching, the strategic quests. I want them to know what and where their resources are, and how to access and best utilize them.

This isn’t just the ability to ask Siri a question. It’s knowing Siri, or whatever iteration of Siri is trendy at the moment, is there, and while easy, Siri is and always will be vastly insufficient. It’s knowing how to access the world’s libraries and the world’s great thinkers past & present. It’s the recognition that some of their best learning resources are actually people, and knowing how to find them and learn from them.

If they can learn how to learn, they can learn anything.

They don’t need to regurgitate facts or philosophies. But they need to know how to learn the facts and philosophies.

How do I this?

By showing them how I learn. By introducing them to my sources of news, and to my library (physical & virtual). By showing them how to navigate to the library down the road, and the Internet and the libraries available on line. By giving them opportunities to interact with experts in various fields of interest.

Basically, if I know how to learn and show them my methods, they will know how to learn, too. Okay, hopefully, anyway.

  1. I want them to be critical thinkers.

Of course I mean this in the classical sense of “thinking things through,” not “criticizing everything they hear.”

I want them to question their own assumptions, and the presuppositions behind those, and the assumptions behind those, and….etc. The world is entirely too full of people who’ve never seriously questioned their own beliefs, worldviews, or even opinions. But an honest dealing with questions is essential to a solid foundation of any thought. I want my children to ask those questions…without fear.

It’s equally important that they learn how to filter the noise; weed through the, um, crap that the world tries to pass (re: sell) as answers; discern the ads from the content and the truth from the dribble. I want them to look at sources critically – even those with whom they agree. I want them to question others’ presuppositions and assumptions, too.

But never with a spirit of rebellion, only with a humble spirit of honest searching for truth. “Question authority”? Yes. But with humility, with a desire for Truth, with a goal of doing Right.

How do I do this?

By questioning, myself. Not believing what I see or hear because it agrees with me or makes me feel vindicated or happy, but digging below the surface, to the sources, to the motives, to the agendas (hidden or blatant, understood or not). This means that, when necessary, I’m willing to change my opinion, my approach, even (with a few notable exceptions) my beliefs, as I learn and mature.

If my children hear me asking questions of others, without fear, they will feel comfortable doing the same.

If they hear me question myself – if they see I can be persuaded, that I can modify as I learn – they will be comfortable with the same kind of growth. They’ll avoid dogmatism, hopefully – an ism that never did much good!

And if I question my children – honestly with a view toward understanding and growth, not just being contrary – perhaps they will learn to question themselves in similarly healthy ways.

  1. I want them to love like Jesus loves.

This is a “duh” for my family. We want our children to love themselves and others the way Jesus loves. Which of course is unconditional, gracious, patient, compassionate, honest. This love accepts both self and Other as they are, but is not content to leave either one as they are; it’s a Love that desires and urges maturity, and is willing to sacrifice to achieve it. It’s a Love that aims for holiness and wholeness – not happiness.

It’s a Love that reaches across all lines to offer help, to stand alongside, to lift up, to teach, to protect, and to share Life and Truth.

I want my children to love this way. It’s how Jesus loves us, how I want to love them, and how I fervently pray they will love themselves and others.

How do I do this?

Well, the maxim comes to mind:

“We teach what we know. We reproduce who we are.”

May I love like Jesus. May I teach like Jesus. May my children and I all grow to be more like Jesus. Every day, into eternity.



Published in: on January 6, 2016 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of stars and integers

Or, How my son has expanded my own universe

I rarely looked up to see the phase of the moon before I had Samuel. Heck, I couldn’t even name the phases of the moon till I taught them to my space-sponge of a boy.

I can tell you all sorts of facts about the planets, about the Big Bang, about multi-verses and quasars, the composition of our sun and the life cycles of three different classes of stars.

I’ve become reacquainted with the laws of inertia, momentum, gravity, action-reaction, and more.

I know how many bonds oxygen and hydrogen and helium atoms have. Heck, before Samuel, I’d forgotten they even had bonds. H2O=water was the extent of my chemistry knowledge.


Compounds (color-coded spice drops + toothpicks)

Granted, no small portion of this is because I’m homeschooling Samuel, and I have to at least brush up on my elementary-school repertoire of science – which, like most adults, I’d long since forgotten.

And some of this is the natural learning that happens with us conscientious parents who find ourselves becoming amateur experts on all sorts of unexpected topics simply because we listen and read and ask questions about the things our children are passionate about. (I think specifically of a graduate school professor who was an expert in French and museology (yes) – a poster child for the humanities – who found herself suddenly also expert at all things baseball, thanks to two athlete-prodigy sons.)

But it feels like an amazing blessing to me. My world has grown, it seems, far beyond the usual lessons in wonder and strength and character most kids manage to teach their parents, simply by being kids.

Samuel has opened my eyes to the awe and wonder of the birth, life, and death of stars. To the magnetic mystery of black holes with event horizons. To the tantalizing notion of exoplanets just waiting for us in the Goldilocks Zone (look it up).


Moon surface (photo taken with Samuel’s telescope)

He’s opened my eyes to the fascinating lines of geometry – especially drawings of three-dimensional objects. Even from wacky angles. Especially from wacky angles.

His boundless engineering brain leaps into imaginative constructions, plans, blueprints, and diagrams, and his boundless enthusiasm for them is contagious even for his mama who would rather read Jane Austen and talk about foreign policy or the effects of climate on ancient Near Eastern religions.

He’s even opened my eyes to the beauty of math.

And I NEVER thought I’d see that. But now I do – I actually see its elegance and clean frames and complexity as loveliness. Enough that I’ve expanded my nerd credentials into reading a couple of non-fiction books about math. Math. Math. It’s so shocking I think maybe I have actually stumbled into one of those alternate universes.

I read articles, blogs, headlines, and subscribe to YouTube channels now that never would have blipped on my radar two years ago.

And here’s the thing: it’s not just for Samuel’s sake.

I like this stuff now.

That’s what astounds me. I’m not learning space facts just to keep up with Samuel. I’m not learning molecular facts just so I can teach Samuel a subject he’s keen on. I’m not reading non-fiction books about math in an attempt to stay ahead of my student.

I’m actually interested.

My son has actually expanded my interests. He’s so passionate, so consumed, so engrossed in these things, I’ve caught the fever.

What a delightful – and thoroughly unexpected – gift!

Now, I’ll never be able to keep up. But that’s okay. I am pleasantly happy to be riding the light-tails of his comet.

Published in: on November 25, 2015 at 9:30 pm  Comments (1)