Homeschool standards
Between the excitement of "Back to School" and the pressure of No Child Left Behind, the topic of standards seems to be a popular one at the moment. Standards are important. Without them, we really do not know what we are trying to do or why. But in this era of standardization, I think standards are beginning to get a bad reputation.

What is a standard? The word most likely comes from an Old Frankish word *standhard, which means essentially what it seems to say: "to stand fast or firm." Its first recorded usage was in 1138, in reference to a flag. According to Webster's 1828, a standard is:
An ensign of war; a staff with a flag or colors. The troops repair to their standard. the royal standard of Great Britain is a flag, in which the imperial ensigns of England, Scotland and Ireland are quartered with the armorial bearings of Hanover.

His armies, in the following day, on those fair plains their standards proud display. Fairfax
The image I have is the standard-bearer holding his colors high so that all on the battlefield can see it, despite the smoke, dust and general confusion of war. It comforts the troops, lets them know the battle is not lost and tells them which way to go. The standard-bearer has a most important task, for if his standard falls, the troops will disperse. He also has a most dangerous task, for he has marked himself and made himself a visible and desirable target for the enemy.

Standards for our children should serve the same purpose: provide comfort and direction.

When we desire to raise the standards for our children, we must first be sure of what that standard is, or it will not be clear through the confusion. For us, that standard is Christ, but we must be sure we are communicating that effectively and that we, too, are remaining focused. It is easy to inadvertently change standards in the middle of the battle, focusing on the minutia rather than the end goal. This can become frustrating for both the parent and the child, since the direction and goal has changed without clear direction.

Once our standard is clear, we can look at some of the specific challenges. A child who is interested and engaged in learning typically puts forth his best work without prompting. They see the work as interesting, relevant and applicable to life. This motivation may come extrinsically through rewards, punishments or the infectious enthusiasm of a good teacher. Be careful with this, however. Too much extrinsic motivation has been shown to actually have a detrimental effect on long term goals. Motivation is greatest when it is intrinsic and the child connects privately with the information. From an old post:
This reminds me of the verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it." Each child is created with unique talents and abilities. We as parents have the difficult task of "learning to know" our children, discovering their God-given talents and interests and guiding them to see God's plan for their lives. But if we are truly seeking the path that he should go and not the path that we would have him go, I think we might find that the issue of motivation becomes secondary.
Instead, we must take on the much greater challenge of "standing fast" and maintaining the standard.