The following is a guest post written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
I am a homeschooling beginner. My only claim to expert knowledge is the fact that I was homeschooled thirty years ago, was raised by a precious homeschool pioneer, and sat clutching my doll at 5 years of age while The Teaching Home magazine snapped our photo for its cover.
I know, hardly expert status. With just two young pupils of my own, I am very much a beginner. Yes, I’ve read books. I’ve learned from Jamie and the other contributors here. My son reads and writes and we practice life curriculum every day. But one of my greatest homeschooling goals is to remain a beginner and help my children do the same.
Instead of raising experts, I hope to raise beginners.
Why? Am I celebrating mediocrity? Encouraging ignorance?
Not at all. But I believe being a beginner has its advantages. Consider a few:
1. Beginners get and give grace to grow.
Beginners, in every arena of life, are often more apt to extend grace to themselves and others.
This doesn’t mean we slack, or don’t care, of don’t have standards, this simply means that we’re comfortable with the fact that we have lots of room for growth. We’re slow to correct others whose methods are different from our own.
We’re quick to give ourselves grace when our schoolday doesn’t go as planned. We’re lavish with our praise when our children make a noble effort.
2. Beginners have nothing to prove.
The unique pressure of home-educating is that we often feel the need to prove ourselves and our children. Often I get questions about our relaxed approach to kindergarten. Sometimes I’m tempted to interpret these as challenges and consider carry around one my son’s reading books in my purse, just so I can just toss it at questioners and say, “He’s reading this now leave me alone!”
But beginners have nothing to prove. When I am comfortable with my beginner-status I can simply smile and explain what we do, why we love it, how it works for us, and leave it at that.
I don’t need to sell it. I don’t need to prove it. And this confidence frees me up to genuinely hear people’s questions and the heart behind them, rather than worrying about whether or not I am “right.”
3. Beginners have the freedom to try new things.
Two years ago, a good friend and I used My Father’s World curriculum and did a little co-op together with our five children. It was fun, but in time we realized it wasn’t meeting the individual needs of our kids. So we stopped. She then tried public kindergarten for a year while I explored Classical Conversations.
At times we both feel like failures, since we keep trying things and haven’t landed entirely on one. But we both have found freedom in relaxing and realizing that each time we try something we learn something new. And, in the process we are modeling for our children that it’s okay to try new things.
My son in particular has a real challenge with taking risks. As we embrace our beginner status together we are both learning to relax and enjoy the fun of trying something new.
4. Beginners aren’t embarrassed when they fail.
Failure is one of the most necessary components of education. More and more educators are championing the value of allowing students to fail in a controlled environment. Teachers are encouraged to cultivate the idea of “safe failure” so that students learn to risk, then learn from their failures rather than be crushed by them.
Believing that we need to be experts, that we need to prove ourselves, is crippling. It keeps us from embracing failure because we’re more concerned with keeping up appearances. This inevitably affects our children and their own attitude toward failure. When we see ourselves as beginners we are no longer embarrassed by failure, we embrace it as a beautiful part of the learning process.
How we grow as educators has everything to do with how our children grow as students.
No matter how experienced we become, we can always have the joy of being beginners. And we all know that more is caught than taught.
As we cheerfully embrace beginner-status we can raise confident children who are comfortable in their own skin, who don’t take themselves too seriously, who learn from failure, try new things and relax, even under pressure and scrutiny.
The result? Much less stress and way more joy.
Does this really work? Don’t ask me; I’m only a beginner. I’d welcome your thoughts …