Having a clear idea of what the goal of education should be is very important to eliminating unnecessary frustration and motivating the student.
What is the Goal of Education?
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Happy Homeschool. Today I want to talk to you about what the goal of education is. I want to start with a little story about something that I’ve been learning lately, which is: how to train my horse to go into a trailer.
I’m pretty new to horses. I haven’t been around them most of my life until up to a couple, almost two years ago when I decided I wanted to learn to ride and we had the time and resources to do that. And I was being successful getting my horse into the trailer in my own way up until about a month ago and then all of the sudden she decided she did not want to go anymore.
Now if you haven’t been around horses a lot, you may not understand quite how big and scary they can be when they’re balking against what you want to try and have them to do. But I had a lot of input from different people and I had studied lots of videos and I was trying to apply everything I had learned about how to teach her step-by-step to get into the trailer.
The first couple of times it was honestly going horribly. I was in tears, I was exhausted, I didn’t feel like I was making any progress at all. But then I got some really good input from someone who’s very familiar with horses and we did some groundwork in the arena and we got my horse to go into, like, a pseudo trailer situation.
So I was getting kind of hopeful, I was understanding how to read her responses and her expressions and how to time my prompts better, so that she would know what I wanted. So I went out to the parking lot and to the trailer after that with a new level of confidence but not necessarily expecting everything to go super smoothly and it didn’t go super smoothly.
I had to work with her (called lunging, which is making her work back-and-forth, back-and-forth) for probably a good twenty minutes and then all of the sudden she decided to listen to me. But that’s not the end of the story.
The next time I went to put her into the trailer to go to my group riding lesson she wouldn’t go in for an hour and a half. I had never worked my horse that hard, I had never made her sweat like that. She was obviously tired, but she obviously wasn’t stressed out.
She was just testing what I really wanted her to do. And she was seeing who was going to win. I tweaked my approach ever so slightly with what might be called a slight bit of cheating – getting my husband to hold the rope from one direction and I just tapped her on the rear end and all of the sudden she went in. It’s like she just needed her head held straight and then she went in the trailer and that was all fine.
So I went to my group lesson, but I was a little bit worried about getting her in the trailer again. So I asked my instructor if she would come out afterwards and maybe see what I might be doing wrong, if there was something where I wasn’t giving my horse, Penelope is her name, the cues that she needed to learn what she needed to learn. Then, imagine my delighted shock when she went right into the trailer after just a couple of cues.
The point here is that what I think really helped me be able to relax and work out the process more despite the fact that we had that hour-and-a-half long session was that I had a better understanding of what my goals were.
My goals were to take her step-by-step to a certain point and decide when I needed to alter that, at what point I might need to give up. But it wasn’t, the goal wasn’t to get her in the trailer. The goal was to teach her to listen to me and that she had to at least go this far.
And I think that that is a similar problem that sometimes people have when they’re thinking about what education is, what the goal of education is for their children. They have not quite the right view of what the goals are and so it ends up making both themselves and their children frustrated.
Once they get the goal sorted out in their own heads and then maybe do a better job of expressing that to their children it might take a little bit for that to settle out and for things to go more smoothly, but it’s still a very important first step. So if someone asked you what the goal of education is, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that from the teacher/parent point of view, it is about exposing your children to information and skills to enable them to become successful, productive, and self-reliant adults. And to also equip them for continued learning throughout their lifetime.
Now, if you think about this goal, it undermines other goals that we might think are the goal of education. The goal of education is not to make sure they can read by a certain age, it is not to make sure they hold a pencil a certain way. The goal, from the teacher’s point of view is to provide them with experience, opportunities, and tools, and supplies, and encouragement, and motivation so that they will engage in doing those things.
And while doing this the parent/teacher needs to be aware of evaluating what might be the real problem with any progress. Maybe they don’t have the maturity in fine motor coordination or in overall understanding. Sometimes as an adult, we can forget that sometimes there are other things a child has to work through before they can process other information or do other things.
So let’s talk about basics. I think we can agree that the basics of reading and being able to work with numbers, math, are very important for a child’s life. Reading opens up a world of information and discovery, and math gives a certain kind of insight into the world around them as well. But until a child is really ready to read there are lots of ways to expose them to a lot of information that can engage them with the world around them and actually then motivate them to read later on.
I would say another basic of education is having to do with worldview. At whatever age a child is at, at some level they are going to be evaluating how other people are making decisions in the things that they are reading about or decisions they need to make about how that information should be used.
And then I think there needs to be some basic training in economics and how to handle money which goes along with math at a little later level, and things like nutrition and other skills that have to do with taking care of themselves when they are an adult.
But learning any of these basics does not need to be time intensive and it doesn’t necessarily take a long time. When the child is ready, enough of the basics can be imparted to the child in a way that gets them off on self-learning. And then you can share things on a different level, you don’t have to be there to guide them quite the same way. Say when they get to be mid-teenager and upper-teenager.
In fact they can share things with you and insights that they have learned that you didn’t get before. So, to reiterate, or maybe put it a different way, education is not about a boxed set of goals that fits every child or certain information or skills that have to be done at a certain age in order to say that education is progressing properly. Education is not about a system and fitting the student into the system. Education, true education, is about the student and using the resources and the methods that help the student to learn.
Now it’s interesting to refer back to my horse at this point. Because in the two times that I have ridden my horse since we went through that very prolonged hour-and-a-half trailer loading session where I was working on communicating with her and just having stamina in the relationship without being upset with her but sticking with something that she was capable of, that I knew at this point, and that was beneficial to learn, in the two times that I’ve ridden her since then, riding her and communicating with her has been so much more relaxed and she seems to be responding to me differently. I think this is partly because I’m not uptight about making sure I’m teaching her the “right things” and partly because she feels a little bit more relaxed like “Oh, she knows what to do now, I can trust her.”
So in view of all of this, I suggest to you that if you have your basic foundational goal of education better defined to guide you, it will make the specific decisions about how to approach education and how to problem solve flow more easily. You will be less frustrated and your students will enjoy the learning process a lot more.
That’s all on this topic for today. If you are enjoying the podcast and getting some encouragement and inspiration from it, would you consider rating it or reviewing it on iTunes or whichever podcast audio app that you use to listen to it? And if any of you are interested in supporting my efforts here because doing this does cost some money, I have put up a donation button via Liberapay on the website. Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.