I grew up participating in 4H, and while I recommend the 4H program itself, I also find myself thinking a lot about the four “H’s” as they apply to homeschooling: head, heart, hands, and health. If you want a holistic way to personally assess your homeschooling, think about whether what your kids are doing is working in each of these areas.
Head: Are your children getting the knowledge they need and the opportunity to develop cognitively? This means not only learning facts, but learning to ask questions, learning to draw conclusions, and learning to think critically. Are they readying themselves for–or making progress with–skills like reading, writing, and computation?
Heart: Are your children getting nourishment for their hearts? Do they have opportunities to form meaningful relationships? Do they have opportunity to see and create beauty in the world? Are they developing empathy and care for creatures and people? Do they have mentors who can help them grow spiritually or philosophically?
Hands: Are your children given opportunities for hands-on projects? Can they use hammers, build Rube Goldberg contraptions, prepare food, make crafts, play music? Are their hands involved in service to others? Are they learning what it takes to do laundry and clean bathrooms?
Health: Are your children learning about a healthy lifestyle? Are they learning about nutrition, adequate sleep, and appropriate self-care? Are your tweens and teens comfortable discussing mental health, sexuality, and addiction questions with you? Are they learning physical activities that can provide them with a lifetime of exercise, such as riding a bike, swimming, sports, or hiking?
These attributes are discussed by various homeschooling advocates, sometimes using different words. Dorothy and Raymond Moore, homeschooling pioneers who wrote The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, talked about providing opportunities for study, manual work, and home or community service. They wrote this years ago, and it seemed a little simplistic to some people then, and I think people often think it is too simplistic now. However, I’ve been homeschooling 16 years now — and I keep finding affirmation that a version of the Moore’s “fomula” seems to work over and over again for the families who stick with homeschooling and seem to get the most from it.
I’ve also often thought about how some children naturally gravitate toward a different balance of the “H’s”. Some kids are more in their heads; some lean more toward their hearts or hands. Some require much more attention to health – they need more physical exercise or greater sensitivity to their nutritional requirements or more coaching about healthy living.
As parents, we can look at that natural gravitation as both an opportunity to play to strengths and bolster weaknesses. Children can be given lots of chances to shine if we take time to nurture their strongest “H’s”. Without over emphasizing their weaknesses, we homeschooling parents can also give them gentle frequent opportunities with the things they’re less drawn to.
We know from being adults that completely balanced people who are equally proficient in all the “H’s” are rare to nonexistent, and that’s okay too. No amount of homeschooling is going to “fix” people, despite recent enthusiasm for home education in the mainstream.
However, in the homeschool realm, we have a lot of flexibility to support children’s sometimes quirky strengths. If we are also thinking about whether we are helping them develop their heads, hearts, hands, and health, we will do a better job as homeschooling parents, insuring that we give them opportunities to grow.