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Begin With The End In Mind

Image: David Castillo Dominici 

I love the concept of ‘begin with the end in mind’ from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Lately, I  have kept coming back to it with regards to education and my home schooling.  If you have been around for a while you know that I have been rethinking my homeschooling practice in the last few months….really, I am often thinking (or over thinking) most things in my life but I think that is where growth comes from.

To really simplify home schooling I want to take a look at the output and then work back to figure out how to get there.  So, over the past few weeks, I have brainstormed what I think would make a successful and rounded education for my children to be ready for life or college.   I started this idea from my reading of The Art of Non-Conformity and Chris’ ideas of a self-directed masters and was trying to see how it might relate to elementary/high school education.  This is the list I have come up with and I wanted to know your thoughts or if I am missing anything:

  1. Different musics/composers/instruments/eras/cultures
  2. Different art/artists/forms/eras/cultures
  3. Different sports and their rules
  4. Math including algebra and geometry
  5. Reading – well, and enjoying nonfiction reading for learning
  6. Complete (but basic) history of the world. All areas of the world in chronological order and how they affected each other as they started to interact.
  7. Basic biology, chemistry, and physics
  8. Play 2 instruments well enough to enjoy them
  9. Speak 2 languages well enough to be comfortable communicating
  10. Know the Bible – all the books and stories, salvation, and big picture story and prophecy. Where we came from, where we are going, and why
  11. Be comfortable writing 1000 words a day
  12. Proper grammar
  13. Ability to do public speaking
  14. Create and run a business
  15. Manners
  16. Investment, banking and the evils of debt
  17. Housekeeping, laundry, cooking
  18. Understanding of different world views – that other people can come to very logical decisions that are different from ours because of the way they see the world
  19. Poetry
  20. Classical literature
  21. Basic Computers and an understanding of coding (how it all works)

Now, in my education, even after my degree I don’t have even half of these learned to where I would consider them ‘properly mastered’.  Education of these things will be a team effort on a lot of levels instead of me being able to teach it all.

Again, just some thoughts. Wanted to through out what we have talked about and get some feedback.  Once I can figure out where we are going, it will be easier to make steps to get there.


  1. Carmen Carmen

    ‘Start with the end in mind’ is the advice our Headmaster gave us when choosing the next school for our eldest (the one she will go to for the 7 years before university.) It’s sound advice.

    A few thoughts on your great list:

    1) My overriding goal would be/is to keep as many options open to my children as possible. This would include Ivy league universities.

    2) Linked to the above, re: no 7, basic biology/chem/physics. I’d want to ensure their door to studying medicine or similar in higher education was left wide open (which I’d describe as needing more than ‘basic’ knowledge but perhaps that’s what you mean.)

    3) Re: financial education that you touch on in 16. I’d include needs v wants, budgeting and the power of marketing and its effect on consumerism.

    4) The couple of items I wouldn’t place value on teaching would be coding (21) and writing 1000 words a day (11) unless your child is very driven in this area. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t place emphasis on their computer skills (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, social media etc) or key writing skills (creative writing, comprehension, formal letter writing etc) which I think are very important.

    5) I’m also wondering about how to deal with self awareness (to enable personal growth), creativity and study skills. My 12 year old has recently had a whole day of ‘study skills’ at school where they covered the different ways we learn (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) and all the kids were scored in each of the 3 areas. Then they discussed how they can use that knowledge to their best advantage. It affects things like how they take notes, the best ways of remembering things, when and how to take breaks, brain food etc. Also, most kids have no idea where to start to study for a test involving, for example, a whole year’s worth of content (which they should ideally figure out before college!)

    6) On a vaguely related note, I’d cover the great Philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Confucius, Aristotle and the hugely important art, in all areas of life, of planning and organisation!

    HTH! xxx

    • Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 You are fabulous! I made this list as basics in several areas… kind of off of the idea of ‘general classes’ in college maybe. Hopefully it will introduce them to different areas enough to know if they want to pursue them more. Really, this list leaves lots of room and time for learning lots more in areas they are interested in.

      Your point 5 is good. Self-esteem, self-awareness, motivation, character. All these things are what they will be ‘tested’ on in life and it is hard to traditionally teach in a school setting. Totally trying to figure out how to do it with my kids though 🙂
      Point 6 is good too. We have done some already (though at their age it is mostly over their head ;)). It also comes up with the history and literature.

      have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Serious opinion – you’re overthinking again maybe. Do they need each one of those to live in the world? Not the same as being alive as a person but being able to get up each day and sustain yourself.

    I don’t mean keep the children ignorant by no means. But have a plan set so if they do show an interest in a subject on this list you have something handy.

    On #8 – I would generalize that because one may switch over to art, photography or even crafting (you guys do have those in your family already)

    On #11 & 12- I recommend Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”, a thesaurus and the current AP Style Book for journalists. Not only will they learn how to write basically anything, they will also know what actual grammar is and how to use various words.

    On #13 thru 16 – these all interconnect. You need 13 and 15 to start 14 and you need 16 to keep it going.

    Last one – use your own blog to teach #21. You already have basic skills, just let them learn it and eventually do a post as a final exam sometime.

    • You are entitled to your serious opinion 🙂

      You are right in that they don’t need to know all these things to live in the real world. I would like them to be introduced to lots of areas enough to know if they want to follow them farther. I was making this list to try and narrow down what they actually, really needed to know. This list looks huge but not over 12 years. Over 12 years it isn’t much at all.

      On #21 I have Lily blogging, she is just getting started and it is off and on right now, but she is starting 🙂

  3. I second Strunk & White’s and add Writing with Flair by Heather Holleman. As an middle-aged person, I was shocked to learn we now are expected to use dashes (never in my day).

    THANK YOU for expecting two languages (hopefully besides English). Languages are such a wonderful resource which are lost in many school systems today.

    Putting this together is a daunting task. Do you have a prepared system to help you?

    I need to 1) re-read the 7 Habits and 2) put them into use :).

    Helpful post for me, too.

    • Thanks, I will look up the grammar stuff. Already I have learned more grammar teaching my kids the first few grades than I remembered from school. Blogging and writing the book were humbling and challenging on that note. I want my kids to know it better than me 🙂

      Yes, 2 languages besides English ideally, otherwise at least one more. Really learned and used, not just lists of vocabulary 🙂

      I don’t have a system… just thinking and throwing ideas out 🙂 Let me know what you think of The 7 Habits. It is good stuff.

  4. I think that this is a great list! They are all things that I needed to learn for college, but I have to say that they aren’t as useful to me in my life right now. I definitely agree that you need to allow your kids access to as much information as possible, so that they are able to develop their own sense of learning and what is important to them. I recently listened to a simplemom podcast with Jamie Martin of simplehomeschool. She had some really interesting things to say on unschooling, and what children need to learn. You might be interested in it. You can find that podcast here I think the thing that struck me the most was us as parents demonstrating what skills we want our children to learn. So, if you want your kids to write 1000 words/day, show them that you are doing that. If you think they have a need to learn algebra, show them how you are using algebra, and then they will end up wanting to do it too because they see it is useful. Love reading about your homeschooling journey!

    • thanks for the podcast link. I will check it out. I was just thinking about doing a post on example learning as well. I still haven’t figured out all the unschooling stuff, have another book requested at the library on it I am looking forward to reading.

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