Like my old Cross Country coach used to tell us, “if you aim for nothing, you just may hit it”. So it behooves us to have goals and dreams for our children. We need to have an idea of what we want for them, what experiences and opportunities we hope they’ll have and what kinds of skills and abilities and talents they should develop to live a good life. This is actually going to vary from person to person. These are questions that you will want to ask yourself and as you ask the right questions, read, study, observe and think, you will get clearer on the answers and the ways to accomplish them. Each family and situation are different, we have different challenges, strengths and weaknesses. You answers may a little different than mine. My answers are just to help you start thinking about your own answers. I am going to share what the end goals for my family and my children are in general as it relates to growing up and becoming independent.
Another way to sort of ask the same thing:
What do I ultimately want for my child?
I want each of my children to be happy, independent, a good person, productive and able to achieve their goals and dreams, and ultimately successful in life. I want my children to be able to grow up healthy and strong, to be kind and to have empathy for others, to have skills so that they can earn a living and be able to take care of themselves and then to be able to have their own families and be able to take care of them also.
So that’s manageable, right? I can do that at least, right?! Well, easier said than done!
In order to accomplish this lofty goal, it is helpful to ask another question:
What knowledge and skills does my child need to live a happy, productive and successful life?
I have divided this answer up into 7 main categories– Character Development, Health, Adaptability, Social Skills, Academics, and Career Readiness. Of course, there may be more categories and some of them could be divided up even further, but this is a good start. So while academics are hugely important in life, there are a lot of other things to learn and with which to become educated in life besides academics. And it is also important to note that these are just brief summaries, books have been and I’m sure will continue to be written on each of these topics. To be learned is not necessarily to be wise as we see in numerous white collar embezzling criminals!
Breaking it all down so that we can digest it and make sure we keep our priorities straight and the important things first is very helpful.
1- Character Development
This has to start at young age, as soon as the child understands the meaning of the word “no”. It is worth it to keep at it and not allow them to do whatever they want, because they will either learn from you, their caregiver, when they are young and malleable or they will learn from life when they are older and less teachable. There are rules, manners and codes of behavior that make everyone happier when followed. It takes effort to teach children to be kind, respectful, and empathetic. It also takes time and effort to teach them to be diligent, persistent and hard working, to keep going even though and especially when things get tough. These things are often learned throughout life starting in babyhood, when baby has to learn not to throw his food or yell at his mother, but to ask nicely for more and to politely say that he is done. We have to learn to control ourselves- our tempers, our physical desires, our laziness, our perfectionism, and countless other character flaws that are unique to each person– we all have our own special flavor of flaws and shortcomings to overcome. Overcoming those flaws and becoming a good, hard working, kind, respectful, persistent person is what character development is all about. Life has a wonderful way of teaching this just from living, but it is certainly helpful to have someone there to help you see your flaws and how to overcome them. It would also be great to learn from others’ mistakes and not just our own!
This is especially important in our modern world. We and our children need to move, run, walk, exercise, stretch and spend time in nature and in the sunshine. We need to watch what we eat, as food is plentiful and not always purely food. We need to drink enough water and make sure it is clean. We need to breathe fresh air. We need to take time to think and dream and pray and just be. We need enough sleep. It is awfully hard to study, learn or grow when we don’t feel well.
3 – Spirituality
We and our children need to understand who we are as a human being. We need to know that God or our Source or the Universe or whatever you want to call it has great love and compassion for us. We need to have faith that life is worth living, and that goodness is rewarded with goodness and evil with evil. We need to be a part of something larger and more important than just ourselves. Prayer, meditation, sacred readings are all important parts of making us the best human beings we can be!
4 – Adaptability
We need to be adaptable. The only constant in life is change. Sometimes things work well for a long time, but we need to recognize when something isn’t working anymore and be able to change it and improve. Countless extinct animals did not adapt and now they don’t exist. Our children need to be able to go with the flow and adapt and overcome!
5- Social Skills
And of course we need to know how to get along with others. We need to understand others needs, wants and personalities. It’s good to be around people our own age as well as those who are younger and who are older. There is great opportunity for service in these areas, to reach out and show someone that you care. Life is better with people you love and that love you. Unfortunately we also have to learn about the dark side of human relations and how to set boundaries and expect proper treatment from those around us.
And then there is Academics. There are foundational things that without, the person will be highly handicapped in this modern world. We’ve all got to learn how to read and write and do basic math through at least Algebra, but really through Geometry, and Algebra 2 to at least feel educated and capable. Other academics are truly beneficial but not quite as foundational as the 3 R’s. These include basic knowledge of science, history, economics, music, art and computers. Beyond that, once the person has a foundational basic knowledge of the world as a whole and in parts, then they can study and/or pursue whatever suits their fancy. That is where the really fun in depth skill building and knowledge come, but it doesn’t have to be any certain thing– it just has to be whatever the person wants for their personal long term goals.
Every person needs to have skills that will pay the bills. Learning and academics are fun, but unless you get a Ph D and become a professor, a person is going to need to either get a job or run a business and that usually entails skills other than what is learned traditionally in schools. There are great careers in computers and programming, business, health fields and many others. A person needs to be prepared to be able to pursue the knowledge and training these paths will require. For example, if your child wants to be an engineer, then they need to do well in math and get through calculus, not just Algebra 2, enough to get into college.
So I hope this gets you thinking about what is most important in raising and educating or choosing a school or curriculum for your child. Mostly that in growing up and becoming educated, there is more to know and do than just academics. We will explore different educational paths towards this final goal. But what sense is there in trudging forward if you are not sure exactly where you want to end up– or at least know about where you want to end up!
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Comment below– What did I miss? Do you hope to see your children accomplish the same sorts of things I described? Thanks for reading, hope it helped, I look forward to connecting with you!