“Which would you rather be if you had the choice—divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever or angelically good?” ~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Although there is compelling evidence that homeschooling tends to produce academically superior results, pursuit of academic excellence is not one of the main reasons I’m currently homeschooling. I probably would have said, before I became a parent, that providing my children with a top-notch education would be a top priority and that in my opinion homeschooling was the best way to achieve my lofty academic goals. But the further along I travel in this journey, the more I realize just how secondary a goal academic brilliance is for our family. (So why am I homeschooling? An excellent question to delve into for a future post!)
Obviously, I don’t want to downplay the significance of a rigorous and challenging course of study. It is definitely important for my kids to grasp the basic concepts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, simply to ensure that they’ll be able to function efficiently in life. Of course I’d be delighted if they progress beyond just the basics and embrace a lifelong pursuit of learning, but the reality is that we can’t all be prodigies. Every bell curve needs some outliers.
Although I like the notion of “striving for excellence,” I hesitate to harp on it too much because I don’t want to emphasize the importance of academic achievement to the point where my kids feel a pressure to perform or live up to unrealistic expectations. Since we all have different strengths and weaknesses, it’s logical that some of my kids will shine in some areas and not do so well in others. I don’t want to infuse any of them with a sense of guilt or inadequacy for not measuring up to a more brilliant sibling.
Moreover, aside from the issue of children comparing amongst themselves, I want to be cautious not to saddle my kids with the weight of my hopes and dreams. It’s nice for parents to make plans and have bright ambitions for their kids, but imposing my own personal aspirations on someone else is really too big an obligation for anyone to live up to. I want to encourage my kids to find their own passion and calling, not merely troop gamely along the course I’ve set out for them.
Finally, in my experience, I have found that an over-emphasis on the importance of smarts can lead to a tendency toward arrogance. Reverting to the conundrum voiced by Anne, of course, it’s possible to become vain over one’s looks or smug over one’s good deeds. But I think that a keen awareness of one’s braininess can be particularly detrimental to a well-balanced sense of self-awareness.
Obviously, the best situation is to be both smart and humble, which is exactly what I hope to accomplish for my kids by encouraging them to learn all they can without overly hyping the importance of accumulating said knowledge. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Common sense, life skills, a healthy body, well-adjusted emotions, solid reasoning skills, an unimpaired imagination, the ability to occupy oneself as well as to participate on a team, an appreciation for art and beauty—these are all important areas for my children to master, in addition to mere cleverness.
Photo Credit: First photo via Unplash; Second, third, and fourth photos by Rose Focht.