The Goal of Education

Dear Reader,

As I have been working through my series on different approaches to home education, one of the main questions I have been asking is: what is the goal of this method of education?

The answers have generally fallen into two categories, the academic and the spiritual. Methods which emphasize academic success, such as the classical method, do so with worldly goals in mind. The end of academic success is meant to be a job, a career, the ability to earn money and support oneself. Of the methods I have looked at to date, I would also include Thomas Jefferson Education in this category. Its goals are slightly different–to improve the individual for the sake of improving society so that it can then preserve the rights of the individual.  But these are still focused on this world and on achieving their definition of success in this world.

On the other side, many of the distinctly Christian approaches have other-worldly goals. Christian classical education in its many forms speaks of preparing children for their adult life but also of enabling them to glorify and enjoy God forever. The Puritans Home School Curriculum also expresses similar goals.

Perhaps it is only a matter of degrees but two of the other methods I have looked at thus far, unschooling and the Charlotte Mason method, express the goals differently. It is a bit hard to say for unschooling because it is by its very nature a diverse approach. From the unschoolers I know I would say that while the goals may vary from family to family, they generally have to do with character-based ideals such as being kind or being able to build one’s unique interests. This is not an other-worldly goal but neither is it focused on success as this world usually defines it.

Now if you have read here for any time at all, you will know that I use the Charlotte Mason method of education so I am not at all unbiased, but I love how Miss Mason expresses her goals for education:

“. . . but how good it would be if we could devise an education which should be not only serviceable in making a living, but should enable young people to realise, use, and enjoy fulness of life!”   [Formation of Character, p.189]

In other places, Charlotte speaks of enabling children to stand in a wide space, that is to form relationships with many areas of study, to ingest many ideas. In my reading thus far, I would say that she rarely talks about careers and preparing for worldly success. Her approach is inherently Christian and there is some talk of forming a relationship with God but even this I think is not always as prominent as it is in other Christian approaches.

As a Christian, of course I do want my children to (in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism) glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But I think too often when we say these words, we are thinking of the forever time and not of our time in this world. I suppose one of the many aspects of Miss Mason’s approach which appeals to me is that she seems to have such a heart for learning to enjoy the things God ahs given us in this world. Hers is a pursuit of truth and beauty in the here and now because all truth and beauty ultimately comes from our heavenly Father. Thus math is studied not just for its practical applications but also because its constant truth points us to the Lord of all truth. And art and music are given prominent place even though they may not be “practical” because their beauty reflects the beauty of our Creator. The end result is that the student is built up not so that they can achieve some particular goal in this life and not even primarily so that they can do things for God but because they are His creations who should be all that He made them to be, so that they may have full lives here and now (as well as in eternty).


10 responses to this post.

  1. I think this is a great summary, Nebby. And after reading so many of your posts, I have at last been persuaded to read Mason’s books and have organized to buy a secondhand copy of her 7 (?) volumes next week! If I have questions, I know where to turn 😉


  2. I think there’s just 6 volumes -at least that’s what I have downloaded. Nebby – I’ve shared this on my homeschool facebook page. I agree with your assessment of CM’s goal, and it is my goal as well!


  3. Thank you both for your comments and links. I would live to have more discussion of specifics from CM’s books!


  4. […] presents The Goal of Education posted at Letters from Nebby where she discusses the different approaches to home […]


  5. […] when addressing the topic of motivation, we need first to look at goals (I have begun that in an earlier post). I think the parents’ goals are the place to start. Charlotte is addressing parents who send […]


  6. […] calls to mind my earlier post on the goal of education. Charlotte’s goal for children (and adults too) was not worldly success, nor was it only […]


  7. […] we are back in the realm of talking about goals. If our goal in educating our children is to help them get a financially stable job, then art may […]


  8. […] or rewards. In education, true motivation needs to come from an inherent love of learning. And the goal of education in the long run is not to produce wealth but to produce a whole, living person who will then serve […]


  9. […] we are back in the realm of talking about goals. If our goal in educating our children is to help them get a financially stable job, then art may […]


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