Making Decisions by Reaction
When I begin to feel my pants tighten on my waist and notice the jiggle on my upper arms, I quickly make the decision to adjust my daily intake of food and add a bit more exercise. It becomes a hit or miss reaction. Some days I do well, others I do not.
As I reflect on how I make decisions, I’m noticing a trend towards reactionary responses that quickly meet the need but have very short term effects or longevity. In some settings, a reactionary response is needed and might even save the life or limb of a kid. But when it comes to making decisions that determine a long term outcome, I’m learning I need to adjust my model.
Making Decisions in Homeschooling: The Problem of Reactionism
As I travel to homeschool conventions or watch social media, I see this same decision-making trend in the area of homeschooling. When our kids are bullied at school, we decide to homeschool. If the cost of tuition goes up, we decide to homeschool. We have a disagreement with teachers, and we decide to homeschool. When Johnny can’t read by 4th grade, we decide to homeschool. We want to travel more, so we decide to homeschool.
And just as quickly as families are making decisions to homeschool, they are also deciding to put kids back into school.
Wait! Before you stop reading, let me add this caveat. There is no one way to educate a child. Homeschooling is not for everyone, and maybe not for all times. But we need to consider the microwave minute in which our society tends to approach decision making and admit that there might be a better way. We also need to actively teach our children the skill of making decisions and following through with them.
I am from the homeschooling pioneer generation. We wore denim jumpers and white tennis shoes, and we couldn’t leave the house until 3pm. We didn’t believe in the boogie man, but we did believe truant officers roamed the streets like zombies waiting and watching to find homeschoolers. (Okay, so that was a bit of hyperbole). Our parents not only fought for the right to homeschool, but gave a great deal of time to the process of making decisions. It was rarely a reactionary response to difficulties in school or with teachers, but was instead a choice rooted and grounded in an ideal.
Making Decisions: Another Option
I was recently watching a TedTalk by Simon Sinek discussing how great leaders inspire action. I began to understand where I was going wrong with my impulsive decision making. Whether the issue is the education of my children, my weight, my marriage, or any other of the common problems we all face, instead of looking at what I can do to fix it quickly, I would do well to step back and begin with a series of questions that begin with Why, How, and What.
Why is not about how we ended up here, but rather about what my purpose is and what I believe. The how question brings the idea down to a personal level. How is this played out in our home? What will be required? The what question helps determine the specifics and day to day routines.
Now, that sounds a bit high-minded, comprehensive, and time consuming. But when it comes to making decisions that will leave a lasting impact, it’s well worth the time. Let’s see how this approach works by looking at an example where homeschooling is in question.
Asking WHY When Making Decisions
When beginning to answer the why questions — whether it’s about why you should homeschool or simply why you should set certain goals or teach certain subjects — start with fundamental beliefs and make sure those who are involved are on the same page. In homeschooling that would most likely be your spouse and kids. What is your purpose in the education of your children?
In 1984, we were already uneasy about where the culture and public schools were going. Honestly, our concerns were probably equally academic, social, and religious. The phonics vs. sight-reading controversy was already in full bloom. Cyndy had worked as a teacher at several private schools and taken some education courses that convinced her the early ed techniques being used were NOT working, especially reading instruction.
Then we met a family with older children who were the opposite of peer-driven. Their kids were bright, articulate, and carried on real conversations with our younger kids (we had 3 at the time) and also with us. We were really impressed.
We both attended public schools in Atlanta from K-12. We were both nerds (though nobody used that word at the time). We both felt a bit “on the outside” because we enjoyed reading and academics. We wanted to be able to nurture that in our kids without having to fight the negative peer pressure we knew they would encounter.
– Rob & Cyndy Shearer, homeschoolers for 30 years and founder of Greenleaf Press
Asking HOW When Making Decisions
Outlining the requirements for any decision allows for reasonable expectations and helps avoid surprises.
In homeschooling, there is a financial requirement. It could be the cost of books or the cost to bring one parent home. There is the emotional requirement of spending 24/7 with your children, especially if neither one of you are used to this. There will also be time required for the adjustment of family operations and time for the teacher to learn how to “school.”
How will homeschooling affect your lifestyle, time, and relationships?
Asking WHAT When Making Decisions
What will a typical homeschooling day look like for us?
This is the beauty of being unique. Do not fear breaking any traditional “school” molds by jotting down ideas of what homeschooling looks like to your family.
What would your schedule look like? What is a typical day? What do you need to rearrange or discontinue in order to get a full school day in?
These examples cover the why, how, and what questions used when making decisions about whether or not to homeschool. But, also think about how these same questions cover the decisions needed when choosing curriculum, setting goals, assessing students, laying out benchmarks, and more.
Using a well thought out decision making process brings clarity and realistic expectations. It also helps keep you grounded when you have those days when you just want to quit. Remembering the why can be a powerful persuasion.
I’m off to look at what I believe about nutrition and health….