If you’ve been thinking about homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve seen books and articles that recommend that you make goals for your children’s education. I remember when my oldest son was just a few years old. My husband and I heard this same advice, and we honestly had no idea what goals were worthy. Thinking about the next fifteen years of my child’s life seemed an overwhelming proposition, especially to someone who had never even been a mother before! Potty training was about as far in advance as my brain could think.
Now that I have seven children and more experience, as well as a child entering the high school years, I’m still not sure that this is a question most parents can easily answer. Academically, we don’t yet know what gifts and abilities God has given to our children. Spiritually, we don’t know what their strengths and weaknesses will be. We don’t know where we’ll live, how much money we’ll have, or what extraordinary trials will come into our lives.
How can we set goals?
My solution was to read broadly from many authors and curriculum suppliers, making notes of the goals they said we should have. If a goal sounded good to me, I began to adopt it. However, this plan wasn’t so good either. During those early years, I tended to switch curriculum often, as I’d find a new goal that sounded worthy or exciting. This lack of consistency certainly caused some problems for my son. It caused a lot of frustration for me!
Another common recommendation is to have the parents brainstorm as many reasons why they’re homeschooling as they can, then mark the top three. These three reasons become their primary goals. Is this a good method? It would be fine if we could trust our hearts to always guide us biblically. It would be fine if we knew our Bibles so well that we could be sure we’re following God’s goals for our children. It would be fine if we were sure that we weren’t bringing things from our own pasts into the discussion, things that might cloud our judgment or cause us to overreact in our own parenting.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Even those excellent planning questions, “What’s not working, why not, and what do you think would help,” are of no help in goal setting. We won’t know if our goals are “working” until our children are grown, and that’s certainly no time to start asking “why not” and “what would help”!
We need the guidance of Someone who understands us and our children, who knows the future, and who knows “what works.”
“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…’” (Jeremiah 18:1-6).
We need to realize that the children we have are simply entrusted to us by the Master Potter. We are their stewards, but He is their Creator. He has a plan for their lives, and part of that plan was to place them temporarily into our homes for our care. However, He doesn’t intend that they stay in our homes forever. He wants to use them, as a potter uses the pots he has formed.
As stewards, it isn’t up to us to make goals for our children. The Potter makes the goals. We simply carry out the instructions that Potter has given to us.
“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
I think that this relieves a lot of the goal-setting pressure! Goal setting is simply not my job. It might be my job to ensure periodically that we’re on track and that we’re making progress toward reaching our goals; however, I don’t have to make up the goals in the first place.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
The Master Potter has promised to give us “everything we need” as we train up our children for “life and godliness,” but this promise comes “through our knowledge of him.” God’s Word, the Bible, contains all we need, but it is up to us to read the Instruction Manual.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to examine some common homeschooling goals and how well they match up with God’s Word. Then I’ll list the goals I see God having for my children. Be sure to come back!