Setting goals for our children

The school year is now well underway.  Many children will have settled in and others will still be finding their feet.  It is a time of uncertainty as they negotiate new expectations, new boundaries and new personalities.  It is a reminder that children need structure and resilience to succeed in education and in life.

There is an irony about these twin needs: we live in a world that has little respect for structure and where resilience seems in short supply.  It is sometimes presented that structure is the enemy of freedom and resilience somehow undermines community.  We struggle with giving clear signals about expectations and boundaries – in workplaces, communities and families.  Witness the current crusade against alcohol fuelled violence but at the same time there is extraordinary reluctance to restrict trading hours and access to alcohol venues.

Experiences such as a new role, new supervisor, new colleagues or moving house, meeting new friends of starting a new job, require us to learn to adapt and be resilient – sometimes all over again.  It is a skill set our children also need to acquire.

Such practical skills are not only acquired at school, they have to be learned in families and communities.  Children learn not only what is intended in curriculum documents or through what teachers plan for their day, week or year; they also learn through the priorities that parents, educators and schools establish.

We all want our children to succeed and for most of us that means they will be happy and fulfilled; they will extend their capacities and abilities; will discover new ideas and learn better how the world works.  Strangely, these really basic elements of education for our children don’t seem to be measured in the international benchmarks that appear to demonstrate Australia is producing illiterate and innumerate dunces compared with other countries.  Perhaps this is why Church documents on education tend to focus more on parents as the first educators of their children rather than teachers or schools.

Educating children does mean having quality teachers, excellent resources and adequate budgets.  These are necessary but not sufficient.  Children do best, learn best, acquire resilience and are happiest when surrounded by loving relationships.  These start at home and extend into friendships, schools and communities, but it is the quality of the relationships that is the essential ingredient.

“Educating for life” is not fundamentally about the curriculum – though that is vital.  Real education in the basic skills of humanity – engaging with others, seeking new horizons, coping with failure, learning to love – begins with parents and then finds new dimensions in the school.  In each of these, family or at school, we need to be patient with ourselves and with our children.


  1. How do I try to build structure into my child’s day?
  2. What do I communicate about coping with change and with failure?
  3. What expectations do I communicate to my children about what is important in their learning?
  4. How do I measure success – in education and in life?
  5. What goals am I setting with my child for 2014?