Home homeschooling 5 Things That Really Matter in Your Child’s Education (Homeschooling Moms, Read This.)

5 Things That Really Matter in Your Child’s Education (Homeschooling Moms, Read This.)

by Kelly Crawford

Raise a virtual hand if you can remember what years WWII was fought? Can you find the length of the hypotenuse? Do you know what a hypotenuse is? What element on the Periodic Table is abbreviated Sn? What about Os? Can you identify an intransitive verb in a sentence? How about a diphthong?

And have the answers to any of these questions helped you be a more successful person?

As a homeschooling mom, you have probably felt the load of guilt from “not doing enough.” And by “enough”, you likely are comparing your homeschool curriculum with either your memory of school or with others around you as they attempt to “do school.”

It is imperative that we ask ourselves the question: “What is really important in the education of my children?” instead of assuming that the system has it figured out. (Because put your finger on the pulse of the society around you, and tell me if you think, by and large, we are giving the next generation the tools they need to be successful?)

Do we want our children to be good at school, good at tests, or educated in a meaningful way that will benefit them in their real lives? Force yourself to think outside of your experience and see the difference between schooling and educating.

“I’ve come to realize that being “academic” doesn’t tell you much about yourself. It tells you you’re good at school, which is fine if you plan to spend your life in academia, but very few of our students do. It doesn’t indicate whether or not you’ll be successful in your marriage, raising your kids, managing your money, or giving back to your community. All things that matter much more than being good at school.

School should be a place where kids can discover what they love. They should be able to ask the questions that matter to them and pursue the answers. They should discover what they are passionate about, what truly sets their hearts and souls on fire. They should discover they can make a difference now. Above all, they should leave school knowing what they are good at.” English teacher, Shelly Wright, Academic Teaching Doesn’t Prepare Students for Life

Because we only have so much time in a day, and so many days in a year, and just like that, our children are done with their education.

So what matters? Is it not true, that we believe an education is the key to [earthly] success? So why is it that so much of what is included in a standard education has nothing to do with being successful? And shouldn’t we be concerned enough about that to question the status quo?

And here is my opinion of what really matters when it comes to a practical preparation for life:

(It’s a given that I believe everything should be undergirded with our love and fear of the Lord. The following are more practical things as it relates to earthly success.)

  1. Financial literacy. Honestly, I think this is at the top of the list of things that will MOST impact our children in their practical lives. Because no matter what academic subjects are mastered in school, if a person grows up without a solid foundation of how money works, how to manage it and make it and how to keep it, it will matter little what he does for a living or what he scored on his ACT.

The truth is, we’re preparing our kids to have a family and make a living. That’s pretty much what we all grow up to do, one way or another. On the financial side of things, our kids have more opportunities than ever before, to make money doing what they love. But, they have to see it, and have an intelligent grasp of economy in the real world.

Schools, in tragic irony, aren’t giving our children a solid foundation of economy and real-life finances, on which most of their earthly success will depend.

We love Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance for high school.

2. The three R’s. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Our children need a good foundation in these three, and after that, the sky is their limit. We live in an age where information is infinite. Our children have anything they want to know at their fingertips. They just need to know how to access that information and the freedom to do it. We can’t learn a fraction of everything. So why not learn what we’re interested in, because that’s the only thing that we will retain anyway. Really, our job is pretty simple. And if we think that their education is limited to what we impart to them, we’re wrong and we do them a grave disservice to let them think that.

3. Relationships and conflict resolution. Because, life and people.

4. Problem-solving. We have two choices as we live life. Complain and despair, or find solutions to our inevitable problems. We need to be talking prolifically to our children about the right choice of facing our problems head on with an optimistic, problem-solving stamina. Largely, a person’s success will depend on his willingness and ability to solve life’s problems. Then end.

5. Character. Even though this is listed last, it really encompasses the others and isn’t necessarily just an item in the list. Diligence, honesty, integrity–these are the traits that, along with the aforementioned things, will serve our children well, bringing them success in their endeavors. The Bible bears it out, and so does experience. Character is best taught by our living example, so we have our work before us. Let us live lives worthy of emulation.

So what I really want to say to you, my fellow homeschooling mama is this: chill out. It’s OK if your kids can’t answer all the questions on Jeopardy. Granted, that would be impressive, but we shouldn’t be about the business of impressing. You’re doing more than you think. The endless worksheets aren’t going to make a big difference in your child’s ultimate success. Even the test scores can be a decoy from true learning.

Keep it simple and homeschool on.

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Kathie Morrissey March 23, 2016 - 10:38 am

I love this! It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure of giving our kids all the academics we need, that we forget what really is important. What a great reminder of what our priorities should be!

Nicole March 23, 2016 - 11:30 am

I hate to disagree on the importance of some of these things, but I just used my college calculus book just last month…um…to prop up a decorative vase on a high bookshelf. So you can see that class was essential to my life and interests. Thank goodness I had that HUGE textbook, so that I could decorate my living room. What would have happened to my vase if I hadn’t taken Calculus in college? ;o) While this is obviously tongue-in-cheek, I’m fairly certain that is the first time I have used Calculus since the class!

Seriously though, thank you so much for the practical reminder. While I want to expose my children to as many topics, subjects, and pursuits as possible in order to help them discover their passions, I often find that I become a bit obsessed over if I’m doing enough for them. Your reminder is invaluable.

If they have a loving relationship with parents and siblings, learn to passionately follow God, and develop a passion for learning, that truly is enough. And if by chance they take Calculus, because it is part of their passion, maybe they can put it to some use for a purpose other than interior decorating!

Kelly Crawford March 23, 2016 - 11:46 am

Ha ha! I’ve thought a lot about my hours spent in Calculus class or Spanish or the hundreds of other hours in various classes in college that now have no real use to me. For those who are academically bent, they enjoy it and therefore are likely to pursue academic careers, I’m not “anti-academic” at all. But for most people, their time could be far better spent getting ahead of the game financially. Learning is happening. But like someone said, “Education is what happens once you leave school.” People eventually learn what interests them and that’s the stuff that starts to matter.

Shawn March 23, 2016 - 11:38 am

LOVE!! So nice to hear this from someone else. Cause it is truly where my heart is. Thanx a bunch. Much love

Shawnele March 23, 2016 - 12:30 pm

I was just thinking on this topic recently as we have a child approaching his first state-mandated test…and we haven’t had a child in that position for some time. After I downloaded a sample test I realized that I wanted to beef up some weak spots before the May test – and it caused me to think about how each and every one of my children are facing many tests in their future – tests of far greater importance than grammar and multiplication (not that I’m advocating neglecting those subjects) – and how much more valuable preparation is for those tests and trials. I could spend many hours in the next several weeks making sure my 3rd grader understands the difference between a subject and a predicate, but of far greater importance is training in character and godliness.

Thanks for the timely reminder!

Cindy March 23, 2016 - 1:27 pm

I can answer all of those questions, yes. And without Google. And I do think intelligence is a contributor to success of a kind, and exercising that intelligence is a means of character formation. A kid who thinks all that stuff is unimportant will be a lazy thinker. But all that aside, your main point is a good one. 😉

Kelly Crawford March 23, 2016 - 2:28 pm


I agree with you that intelligence is a contributor to success. I just think intelligence can be defined in more ways than the standard idea. I think a mechanic who loathes Shakespeare has an intelligence that the Shakespeare lover does not. Same for artists or what have you. I’ve seen it in children I taught and in my own children. The problem with a standard idea of intelligence is that it makes the non-academics feel dumb and subpar. And that tragedy overlooks SO much potential and sets kids back so far in life.

Sandi March 23, 2016 - 4:06 pm

Thanks for an encouraging article!

Do you have a financial curriculum you recommend? I wonder if Dave Ramsey does one for kids and young adults? He should!

Kelly March 23, 2016 - 7:56 pm

Sandi…yes he does. We’ve used it and will go through it again this year. It’s DVDs with a workbook.

Kelly D. March 23, 2016 - 5:57 pm

Excellent post!
Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences backs up your post exactly. A solid foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic is important but otherwise, if children are allowed to learn in those areas that interest them most, and in the ways they learn best, they are going to learn a lot more than children who are forced to learn irrelevant stuff they are never going to need.

Kelly March 23, 2016 - 7:57 pm

Ooh I need to look that up.

Cathy March 23, 2016 - 5:58 pm

This is so encouraging to me! We started a family business about 5 years ago that has required so much of all the family’s time that the book work of homeschooling gets low priority (running a raw milk dairy). We have 9 children, and we keep them all very busy with all different aspects of the direct marketing business. But sometimes, when I start comparing to other homeschool families, I start to doubt if what we’re doing is enough. My kids rank high, though, on the 5 priorities you shared. Encouraging!

Bonnie March 23, 2016 - 10:43 pm

I love that intelligence does not just emerge through culturally-sanctioned academic rigours.

God made people naturally intelligent, inquisitive and creative; I believe it’s part of our very nature. But, it is often our environment that squeezes these impulses out of us.

I would suggest that a broad understanding of history would be in my top list of things to know. People who don’t understand the flow of history repeat it, and as Christians we have such an opportunity to be leaders if we are willing to see out of the narratives of our current culture.

I don’t know if this is okay to post here (please delete this if it’s not), but I’ve just started a Facebook Group on this very subject… what is *real* learning? What is essential and valuable and does it look like the homeschooling curriculum that so many of us have (somewhat guiltily) stopped using?


Anne DeRuiter March 24, 2016 - 7:20 am

I just finished reading “The End of Average” by Todd Rose. It covers this same territory and was quite fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Kelly Crawford March 24, 2016 - 9:24 am

Thank you, Anne! I love recommendations like those. My best recommendation that covers the whole gamut of education is “A Different Kind of Teacher” by John Taylor Gatto.

Deborah Scott March 25, 2016 - 11:52 pm


Denise Renae March 28, 2016 - 2:23 pm

This is encouraging. I have several friends that homeschool also and its hard not to compare myself to them and to think I’m not doing enough. I like the idea of teaching them the basics and then allowing them to pursue what they enjoy and are good at. Also agree that the financial end should be at the top of the list! My husband and I are just understanding how investing works – getting money to work for you rather than you working for it. We will make sure we pass this knowledge down to our children.

Shelly April 1, 2016 - 10:15 am

This was so spot on. So many people-including fellow homeschoolers- are surprised to hear that the total amount of time each of my children spends on school each day is usually less than 2 hours. It is so hard to get people out of the schoolish mindset to help them realize that true learning comes from life experience.

Lazy Day Links- 4/23/16 – There's No Place Like Home April 23, 2016 - 3:11 pm

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