Are Academics Important?

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Have you read the news about the nation-wide SAT scores for the graduating class of 2011? The average reading score is the lowest on record.

I'm not sure why scores are dropping nationally. And I know that homeschoolers tend to do better than their traditionally-schooled peers on standardized tests. But when I spoke at a homeschool group recently, I noticed a subtle, troubling attitude toward academics. I heard comments like: "Oh, we probably won't get to math this year," or "We're just focusing on character training this year. We're really easing off other studies." I got the sense that, to these moms, anyway, academics just weren't that important.

I know that education is not about test scores. I love that homeschooling lets you tailor your plans to your family. And maybe you do need to take a short break from intense academics to focus on character issues.

But ultimately, what is the goal of homeschooling? I believe it is to equip children to do whatever God calls them to.

And with few exceptions, equipping children for their callings includes the pursuit of excellence in everything, including academics. Such excellence will mean different things for different children (and may or may not result in great test scores). But the point is that when we challenge our children academically, we are helping them reach their individual, God-given potential. Why should we do this? I believe . . .

  • When we challenge our students academically, they learn how to work hard and overcome challenges. Whatever our children are called to, they will need to know that they can face challenges, work hard and overcome. How will they learn this lesson if we never prod them?
  • Many, many careers require a solid academic education. If God calls our children to college, seminary, the military, vocational trade school, the mission field, or elsewhere, they need to have the academic skills to succeed there.
  • Challenging our children academically can help uncover their calling. Let's say your child is called to the medical field. Giving him opportunities to excel in math and science can help him discover that calling.
  • A solid academic education prepares our students to be salt and light in the world. If our kids are to have an impact in this world, they need to be able to read, think, talk, and pray about the world. They need to be able to relate to people who believe differently than they do, are unfamiliar with the God of the universe, or hail from a culture that is unlike the one they come from. Academics can help prepare our students for all of this.

Homeschooling is often a balancing act. We don't want to focus solely on academics and push our children too hard. But we don't want them to get off too easily either! We want to help them reach their potential—whether that includes getting into technical school, acing the SAT, or pursuing a field they've never even considered.

We don't need to do what many public schools seem to feel they must do and simply focus on getting kids through the system. We want our students to pursue excellence; we want to equip them for God's service.

I imagine you are already doing that. Sonlight is here to help as you persevere in that worthy task! Any ideas of how we can come alongside you even more effectively?


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  1. Jana C

    I have seen a huge change in the homeschooling community over the years. Way back we had something to prove to ourselves and others, that we could homeschool and do a better job than the public schools. As the schools have lowered standards rapidly in the last few years, I have noticed that the same has happened in the homeschooling community. I don't mean that all parents are doing this, don't get me wrong. But there is definitely a more relaxed feeling. I don't see the rigid standards of 10 or even 20 years ago, in my experience. I constantly get flack for what my children are doing, many think I push to hard. I am terrified for the future !

  2. Excellent read! I will be sharing this with my social circles :)

  3. Well said, Sarita. Academics are very important to our of the big reasons we chose Sonlight!!

  4. Stephanie

    In our home the broad goal of "academics" is only very slightly second in priority to character training. I have often told prospective homeschool families: your goals for your homeschool will dictate your homeschool schedule, curriculum, method, and attitude. If your goal is to replicate the public school system, including materials, testing, grading, etc... and just "keep them at home," then you will let the State determine when your child should be tested, what he should score, and your response to that score. If your goal is to provide a healthy environment in which your children may learn to learn and learn to love learning, then you will maximize all types of learning opportunities- "real life" stuff, "academic/book" stuff, everything. You'll know whether to test, how to test, how to assess test results, and when to say, enough.

  5. Sarita, what on EARTH do you say to these people who think they "won't get to math this year?" That is nothing but laziness disguised as "character training."

    The only valid excuse I could think of would be allowing a child with a terminal illness and not much time left to go do the things he enjoys doing while he can.

  6. hockeymomx4

    Thanks for the encouragement. I was just telling me 8-year old, "It doesn't matter that you think this book is boring. It is your assignment. You will read it." I did go on to explain that school is not all about fun and that one of my goals for my children is that they are exposed to a wide variety of literature.
    Thank you Sonlight for picking such great books (even if my 8-year old doesn't appreciate it yet)!

  7. Pingback: Academic excellence matters because it honors God | Sonlight Blog