How do You Measure Success?
A couple of days ago I read this in the introduction to the Bible in One Year for the day:
‘We lived in Oxford for three years. I was training for ordination in the Church of England and studying for a degree in Theology at Oxford University. One of the things we noticed while we were there was that, compared to London, Oxford seemed to be relatively non-materialistic. People, on the whole, were not impressed by wealth. Success was measured differently.
The people in Oxford tended to be more impressed by brains than by money or beauty. Success was measured in starred firsts, distinctions, PhDs, professorships and published works. It made me wonder whether intelligence and ‘knowledge’ could be as much a false god as money and wealth.’
From my perspective as a home educator teaching my own children all the way through their formal schooling to the end of high school, and as an educator who has encouraged other parents along the same path – what is my measure of ‘success?’
Children who get into university, or better yet, get in earlier than others their own age? Or maybe acceptance into a highly sought after degree?
One of the very first questions we were asked when we announced our decision to homeschool was, ‘What about university?’ Our eldest was 2 years of age at the time but that was one of the external measures of success thrust upon us. Of course, we wanted our children to have every opportunity to excel academically and be able to get into university at the end of high school, if that’s what they wanted to do. But worrying about it when they were 2 years of age??
Six of our children have graduated at this point, four of them took up university studies, two entered trade related training/apprenticeships. Some of them excelled in their areas and have had great opportunities as a consequence. We’re really thrilled about that because they worked really hard to achieve what they did, but there are other areas of our children’s lives that they have excelled in that are just as important, if not more. Relationships, attitudes, values, initiative, resourcefulness…
The writer of the Bible in One Year I quoted above pointed out that Lord Byron said,
‘The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.’
We need to see ‘knowledge’ in perspective.
What will be our measure of success?
In 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson says, ‘What you aim at determines what you see.’
If the pursuit of knowledge and academic achievement is a false god that we worship, we won’t ‘see’ a true picture of our destination and when we get there it won’t satisfy us.
What false gods are we worshipping?
As home educators are we more concerned about our children’s credentials and them making us look good than we are about other areas of their lives?
After years of negative predictions about our children’s futures I just wanted to broadcast their achievements to the world! Now I’m happy (mostly! Sometimes I brag) to let their lives speak for themselves. Some things can’t be shown on a piece of paper.
I think Charlotte Mason’s definition of success is a good balance:
‘At the end of their education how much do they care and how many things do they care about?’