We want our kids to rock at life. We don't want to see them struggle. The idea of a student failing in school feels terrible. Yet as strange as it is for someone writing as part of an educational company, I think there are solid reasons why success in school should not be our ultimate goal.
First, conformity is a barrier to success. Time and again, history has shown us that those who rise to the top, who buck the trends, who stand out are abnormal, differently driven, and willing to do something other. As the popular layperson's definition of insanity would indicate, we should not do what's always been done if we want progress. And, if anything, school is about conforming. Learning to work within boundaries is helpful. I have no problems with introducing students to topics and skills and information and approaches. But the world of classrooms is an artificial one with many negative elements. Conformity is a major part of problems related to bullying, class grade levels, socialization, and classroom group think. If your student struggles in a classroom environment, it's likely due to one of the problems in the system. These issues may be an indication that your child is more on top of reality than others.
Second, test scores are terrible indicators of success. I tried to find a study that compared test scores to future success in life. My search failed to yield results. What little I saw tended to further solidify my position that factors far outside academia influence a student's future. This makes sense, especially when we consider the pros and cons to preschool. A student struggling in school is likely influenced by things not related to education. If there is a problem with the student, school isn't going to solve it. And just because the student gets bad grades or flunks tests has very little to say about the years to come.
Third, challenges are opportunities to grow. If your student has a desirable difficulty, the problem could hold them back or enable them to shine. If a challenge breaks you, that's not good. But if your student can push through the issues, success is much more likely to follow.
"Some of the most famous, richest people in this country were terrible students with terrible test scores who struggled through school."
~ Wayne Brasler in Building the Machine
The observation that success in school is not tied to fame, fortune, or positive future impact is a very important one. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world abandoned traditional school entirely.
This leads to two very important conclusions:
- As homeschoolers, we can help our children find positive ways to work through their challenges. The negative impacts of dropping out of school are very real. As homeschoolers, we can customize our approach to meet the needs of our students. Many brilliant people were bored out of their minds in school and thrived at home.
- If you have a student who is struggling (even at home), that does not mean your student is a failure. Far from it! God uses challenges to shape us. Your child may one day dramatically improve the world in large part because of what's happening now.
There is nothing wrong with having a student who breezes through school. We don't want our children to struggle. Academics are important. Doing well academically honors God. But success in school is hardly our end game. In fact, the reasons to purse a great education are for what it enables us to do, not so we can pat ourselves on the back for earning a certificate.
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