In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he says that all businesses can tell you what they do and most can tell you how they do it, but what so many are lacking is the ability to tell you why they do what they do. This leads to uninspired customers who are left having to evaluate commodities based on price or other perks or add-ons.
I have found it to be the same in the realm of education. We shop around for the best education option for our children hoping to guarantee their path to success by the time they leave home. We evaluate public vs. magnet vs. private vs. charter vs. hybrid vs. university model vs. Montessori vs. international vs. a million other models. After all the searching and reading and comparing, they all start looking the same. An 8:00-3:00pm school day with some variation of core curriculum. “School” becomes a commodity just like any other and we are forced to make choices based on various “perks” or “add-ons” such as extra-curricular offerings, an emphasis on the arts or STEM, tuition discounts, or graduation/college acceptance rates.
No matter the WHAT and HOW we choose for our child’s education, it is our responsibility as parents to communicate to our children WHY we have chosen a particular educational path. How many of us look back to countless classes and hours of study and think, why in the world did I have to take that? When will I ever use that? Only to realize we were right. We will NEVER use that. Let’s give our kids a better answer.
Most educational WHYs are passive. “I attended public school and I turned out ok so it’s good enough for my kid.” Not super inspiring and will lead to lots of the same questions we asked ourselves about our own education.
Some WHYs are reactive. There are parents who choose to send their children to private school or to home educate because they are “fed up with the school system”, or “to protect them” from things like school shootings, bullies, political propaganda, etc. These WHYs are reactive to current society and culture and just as uninspiring as the passive WHY.
I encourage you to make your educational WHY proactive. Make it inspiring. A strong WHY in business creates a culture of loyal customers (ahem..Apple, inc?). A strong and inspiring WHY for our education choice will foster a culture of kids who are sold on the idea of learning, which I suppose is the ultimate WHY of any educational endeavor.
Here’s our family’s mission for home educating (our WHY is the first sentence):
We believe that all children are created in the image of God for a unique purpose and have been designed with unique talents and passions to fulfill that purpose. Rooted in faith and family, we will strive to develop critical and curious thinkers, effective communicators, diligent workers, and instill a sense of wonder by providing unique and real-life learning experiences where our children can flourish in their God-given talents and gifts which we pray would be used to further God’s glory and kingdom.
Based on our WHY, the bulk of the learning done during our school year is specifically geared toward the interests of each of our children. The WHAT I teach, is the result or proof of WHY I teach. I believe that when my children are affirmed as the unique beings that they are and encouraged to learn the things they are most interested in, it will foster a deep love of learning throughout their entire lives.
If you are interested in reading our complete vision, you can download it here.
Not sure how to create your WHY? You can begin by googling educational institutions and reading their mission. Interestingly, you will often have to infer a WHY based on the WHAT of their mission.
For example: Khan Academy‘s mission is “To provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Their WHY? All children, all over the world deserve a world-class education. That’s inspiring.
IDEA public school‘s mission is simply: “Free. Focused on college. For all children.” Their WHY? Every child deserves an equal opportunity at a college education. That’s inspiring, especially in the areas where these charter schools are popping up. Most of their graduates will be first-generation college students.
Or more up my alley is Pathfinder Durham’s mission and clear “why”: “We believe that education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life, and that people come into the world equipped with everything they need to educate themselves” (also the “why” for the Alliance for Self-Directed Education).
What’s your family’s WHY for your education choice? Leave a comment below!