Exploring, discovering, emerging, progressing, mastering: no matter how old you are or your stage of life, in some element, you are somewhere on this step by step journey.
When our children are babies, we have very few expectations. We understand that it will take time and patience, teaching and correction and lots and lots of practice for them to be able to walk, talk, feed themselves and pee in the potty. Those who have more than one child should understand this better with every birth.
Ironically, homeschool parents, committed to being with their children and uniquely situated to know and meet their needs better than anyone else, often forget the basic principles of learning when their child ‘refuses’ to read or ‘simply won’t’ complete that math problem or use proper punctuation or write neatly or read that novel or grasp that physics theory.
With each year of our homeschool, I am constantly reminded that each of my children are different. Each has strengths and weaknesses that may not be true of their siblings, each needs specific, individual attention from me and when they are ready, each of the WILL succeed at whatever it is that lays before them.
Success is one of those things that must be repeatedly defined. If a hockey star scores, he is a success. If a five year old stops on his skates – before crashing into the boards – then he is a success. Success is, or should be, measured by our readiness to undertake the task.
Not that long ago, I saw a cartoon where a group of animals: a bird, monkey, penguin, elephant, fish, seal and dog, were lined up in a row and a man, seated behind a desk, told them that in order to be evaluated fairly, they must all climb a tree. It reminded me of a story about my little brother when he was just a small fry. He and his friends all lined up on the curb to see who could pee the furthest. Everybody can chuckle at the image of the little boys going for distance. The catch was that one of his friends was a little girl. When she was totally unable to master the same skill that the boys took for granted she felt discouraged, defeated and ‘less-than’ her friends.
Both of these illustrations poignantly describe the results of expectations that do not mesh with practical reality. Seals don’t climb trees, girls don’t pee for distance and children do not achieve scholastically before they are ready.
Two of our children are academics. I can hand them a textbook and expect them to complete the work with very little input from me. Two of my children are very intuitive but not inclined to book learning. It takes a lot more effort for these two to write an essay but they are very quick to negotiate the logic of a problem. Our fifth child is somewhere in the middle of everything. This child struggles with reading but is very inclined toward fine arts. Each child is equipped to succeed in certain areas and will struggle with others. Moms and Dads, I need you to hear this, “That is ok!”
If we place expectations on our children, for which they are not ready, we are setting them up to fail. I am not saying that if your child is having difficulty reading that you should just give it up because it is too hard. Rather, if your child is having difficulty reading, are you going too fast? Which types of words/sounds cause them to stumble? Do they have physical challenges precluding them from advancing until the challenges are addressed? If your child is struggling with math concepts, can you identify why? Did they not quite master the one before? Our math program is different from many others as it is based on mastery. The first level deals with counting, next is basic adding and subtracting, followed by regrouping, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals & percents. Once all of these foundational elements have been taught, practiced and mastered, then the materials move on to the next concept. If I try to teach my child how to multiply fractions before they understand regrouping they will not succeed. Why? Because they do not have the tools. I would not try to build a shed using boards, a banana and toothpicks. The bananas and toothpicks are not the right tools. I may understand the principles of shed building, I may know what a finished shed should look like but if I am not prepared and properly equipped, then my shed will not succeed.
Regardless of our age or occupation, there are areas where we are ready for success and areas where we need to continue working and learning before we are undertake the next step. Day by day, I encourage you to embark on the journey with patience, encouragement and wisdom as you help your child master each milestone and guide them in their path to success.
Just as we patiently love our children through their phases and stages, so does our loving Father bear with us. No matter how often we fail or fall, He is waiting to help lift us up and equip us to carry on in our journey. Don’t be discouraged if you are not where you hope to be. Instead,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”