Our Unschooling Adventure - which officially started in Lowell in the Fall of 2005 - now continues in Berlin.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Goals, Strategy and Tactics

This is the rough draft of an article I am working on. Please let me know what you think!
Homeschooling brings freedom and freedom brings responsibilities. One of the main responsibilities is to think about our goals for our kids and how we plan to achieve them. We have chosen the path of unschooling, but that word is rather ill-defined. We wanted to flesh it out more and make it our own. This is how our ideals about unschooling and our educational goals for the kids come together.

We decided to use the process used by the military to plan campaigns. You start with Goals, which is the "big-picture" statement about what you want to achieve. Then you go down one level and define what Strategies you will use to go in the direction of the goals. Once the strategies are in place, you start defining what specific Tactics you will use "on the ground" so to speak.

We thought it would be instructive to use this process of planning in fleshing out our educational process. Here's our progress thus far.

Goals: Empower our kids to become happy and financially successful. (There are multiple ways of defining the latter - comfortable/financially independent/rich/wealthy etc. Our preferred one is financial independence, but that's a separate story.)

Strategy: The strategy for both these goals turns out to be quite simple and straightforward: empower the kids to become the best they can be. There is a lot of research to bear this out, such as the following.


Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology and the author of "Authentic Happiness":
The good life ... is a life wrapped up in successfully using using signature strengths to obtain abundant and authentic gratification.
In other words, finding abiding happiness comes from developing and actualizing your authentic self.

How about the negatives or weak parts of our character? What do we about them? Indeed, what can we do about them? Again, Dr. Seligman:
I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your weaknesses. Rather, I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your Signature strengths.

Career Success

There is a parallel strengths-revolution going on in management theory. Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, authors of "Now, Discover Your Strengths" write:
Casting a critical eye on our weaknesses ... will only help us prevent failure. It will not help us reach excellence.
Marcus Buckingham goes one step further in his latest book "The One Thing You Need to Know: About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success". If you want to achieve individually (i.e., for what he calls Sustained Individual Success), his blunt recommendation is:
Do what energizes you and eliminate what drains you.

In a nutshell, focusing on and developing my kids' strengths will not only make them more productive and successful in life, it will also give them enduring happiness. Seligman and Buckingham do use the word strength differently. Seligman is talking about character strengths such as curiosity and humanity (check out www.viastrengths.org), whereas Buckingham is pointing at our innate talents and intelligences. But the essence of the message is the same: build on your strengths.

So there we have the core of our Strategy - help our kids identify and develop their strengths and talents and passions. (We will pay attention to their weaknesses only to the extent they make our kids dysfunctional.)


Before we can help the kids develop their strengths, we have to know what they are, and that is where the process starts. We pay attention to the kids' developing interests and make sure they get opportunities to exercise their strengths. Respecting their obsessions is a big part of this.

Another tactic is to model the learning process ourselves. The kids have watched me as I taught myself to hoop and to juggle. I did them not to show them how. I learned these skills because I was interested in learning them. This kind of self-directed learning is a part of the process for us.

Supriya has always shown us what she wanted and what interested her, thanks to the broadband connection between her brain and her mouth. She has many areas of strengths and we are doing our best to help her develop them:

  • interpersonal - lots of playdates, social time
  • kinesthetic - gymnastics, swimming, snowboard, skateboard, bicycle, juggling, sledding, hooping
  • music - singing with the AllTogetherNow homeschooling family chorus, singing with Band in a Box on the computer, playing her drumset, drumming in the van, listening to different kinds of music, watching musicals
  • building - crafts, art, Legos, robots, Popular Mechanics subscription

It has not been so easy reading Aseem. He is an introvert and likes to play by himself. The computer is his buddy primarily because he can do things at his own pace. We are getting to know him better and better. His primary mode of learning is through touching and doing, for example baking and helping Manisha with laundry. He also has good kinesthetic intelligence. He can throw a ball very well, so Santa got him a magnetic dart-board. He is making good progress riding his bicycle and roller-skating. He is certainly a curious little boy and we know he knows much more than he can verbalize.


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