What we teach throughout each hour of the homeschool day should be designed to support our purpose of education. For many Lutherans, this end purpose of education is for our children to inherit eternal life and to fulfill God’s mission here on earth through the vocations they are called to do. Robyn Burlew in her lecture series “Essentials of Effective Teaching” outlines how to break down educational goals into three categories: Ultimate goals, intermediate goals, and immediate goals.
Ultimate goals in education flow out of the mission for the school or homeschool. All the curriculum, subjects, and teaching should be centered around this purpose. It is very easy to lose sight of the ultimate goals, as they are not things that can be assessed in the here and now. We can’t know in what ways our child will be of service to his neighbor in the future. We can’t even see the heart of our child to truly assess the Holy Spirit’s work of faith. Our society thrives on measurable outcomes, but ultimate goals are not about success, but about being faithful to the work God has set before us to train our children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). When we have clear end goals, our focus in education can be to set our children on a path with an end in sight, while enjoying the freedom of knowing that the outcome is not ours and will be a lifelong journey for them.
Intermediate goals are much easier to identify and assess. These are the goals that pave the pathway towards the end goals and answer the questions “What do we want our children to know?” and “What do we want our children to do?” This will make up the content and skills that you want your children to have when they graduate from school. Intermediate goals are a measurable and a needed element of education that help our children to grow towards their end goals. Learning to read lends a hand to reading scripture. Learning math facts is needed for later business ventures that will serve other people. The liberal arts tradition of education, beginning in antiquity and refined in the middles ages and beyond, was a way to educate with those end goals in mind. The skills and knowledge a child obtained in school helped to fulfill the mission or essence of a person here on earth and in life after death.
Immediate goals are those things that we want every child to have and experience in school every day. Rather than only looking toward the future, remember that the education of the here and now is also important. Should a child with a terminal illness still go to school? If our aim in education is only for the future, the answer could be no, but every day a child should experience the wonder of creation and delight in their studies. Every day should be a day for worship and prayer. Cultivating our children’s personhood, without regard for how it will lead to success in the future, needs to be incorporated into our school day, every day, at times even every hour. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Let us treat each of our children with this sense of awe, remembering that God created every one of them unique as a person to be delighted in each day.
It is wise for every teacher and parent to think about these things when designing a curriculum and atmosphere for their school: What is the vision of our school; its end goals of education? What is celebrated and cherished? It is wonderful for our kids to achieve success, but is success celebrated in a way that reflects our ultimate goals? Do we focus on the path we are laying down or the outward achievements along the way? Every school and homeschool will have their own unique goals. Thoughtfully put together, these goals will work to achieve the education of a whole person; to cultivate a child in the paideia of the Lord.
Laura Mears is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, Joshua, homeschool their four children in Lakeville, MN.