Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Over the years, when friends or the grocery store clerk would chat to me about my kids in regards to homeschooling many would say something like, "Oh so your kids must be reeeeeeally smart". Ya, I guess... if figuring out how to turn on the TV and load the VHS into machine by herself at as a toddler or if making it home without a fractured skull after performing death-defying jumps at full speed through the forest on his mountain bike (Lord help me!) is smart then yes, smart they are! To be honest, academics has never been top priority for my husband and I as we've walked through our kids' educational years. A priority for sure, just not number one.
We believed early on that if we could teach our kids to just be kind and to think for themselves then their life's trajectory would move upwards despite the inevitable ups and downs that they would have to face. I've repeated those words over and over again to parents who are sincerely worried about how to get the academics right for their child if they were to make the decision to keep them at home for school. Teach them to be kind and to think for themselves. There is usually a pause while the mom and/or dad come to terms with the simplicity of my response. Being kind and thinking for yourself are doable strategies that will benefit all of us and our kids. But this obviously applies to everyone, kids who are taught at home and kids who are taught in a school system.
Teaching your child kindness will make them kind. That includes being kind to themselves. Kindness is having empathy and generosity, putting others before themselves in words and in actions. It's smiling, being gentle, listening. Kindness creates community volunteers; it creates putting people first no matter what career path your child may choose - accountant, construction worker or conservationist. It creates generosity towards their future neighbours and towards the charities that will matter to them. It will allow them to tangibly change someone's day for the better when they are able to discern that their waiter needs an encouraging word rather than an aloof patron (they're watching you mom and dad!). These things matter in life. We must all be kind, in turn we're teaching kindness to all those around us.
Think for yourself. Doesn't that encompass SO much? When you teach your child to think for themselves, they become a leader not a follower. They'll be a self-starter. They'll figure things out when others may have given up. They won't lose themselves to constant comparisons. They won't do the things/spend the money/drink the koolaid just because everyone else is doing/spending/drinking it. They'll access the situation in front of them and make a plan. Of course none of us lead, self-start, figure out, access and avoid comparing 100% of the time, not even close. But because you've also taught your child to be kind to themselves, they'll be able to get back on it when they've slipped off the track. Sometimes getting back on track will be easy to do on their own and sometimes they'll need the push or pull from one of those wonderful people who will most definitely be in their life because of their kindness.
Academics matter. Loving to read, acing an algebra course, writing a killer history paper are not bad things for your child to strive for. Just slot Kindness and Thinking Skills 101 at the top of the course selection list every single semester and you'll be walking alongside your child on their unique path to fulfilment and confidence.