One of the worst mistakes rookie homeschooling parents can make — and sometimes veteran ones do, too — is to compare their kids with another.
“Little Betsy is studying German and French and taking college-level algebra. Her vocal instructor says she has the voice of an angel.”
And while it’s wonderful for Little Betsy, it’s possible that in comparison your own little one, who is fluent in Pig Latin and loves to sing about how Batman smells, might seem less than admirable.
You may start to wonder: Is my child falling behind? Is she missing out on something? Should she be spending two hours a day on Rosetta Stone? Perhaps you’ll even begin to doubt your ability to give a decent education to your child. Don’t go there.
You will be miserable trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, and your child will be miserable forced to follow someone else’s schedule.
Focus, instead, on your child’s own learning curve. Everyone takes in information at different speeds and times, and it is unrealistic to expect your child to learn algebra or Latin or US History just because “everyone else is.” That is not to say to avoid undesirable subjects indefinitely — just learn it when the spark is there or when you feel your child is ready to take on a specific curriculum.
One of my most vivid memories in school was going from a D to an A in Advanced Algebra in the span of a quarter. It wasn’t that I didn’t get the material, I just didn’t care or try. Once I decided that I did care, I worked myself up to an A for the quarter.
Caring about a subject is a great motivator. When I started my son in piano at age four (because every other four-year-old seemed to be taking piano), he hated it and never got past Mary Had A Little Lamb. Now, at age 11, he is taking lessons at his own request and has excelled beyond all expectations.
So how do you know your child is ready for a certain subject?
- Frustration Level — One of the first tell-tale signs of unreadiness is frustration. Be aware, though, that many times, frustration will occur until the child has gained some proficiency in a subject. This is true for the younger child and perfectionist. If he wants to keep trying, just go slow and be encouraging. If he is completely put off by the subject and shuts down when presented with it, then you know it’s time to put it aside and try again later.
- Genuine Eagerness — If your seven-year-old tells you he wants to learn more about quantum mechanics, by all means, go for it! There is much to be said about interest-led learning.
- Expose Them — There is no harm in trying new subjects (after all, your child may uncover a whole new passion). If you really feel learning another language is vital to your child’s future, then show them the language in action. Immerse yourselves in the culture, watch some foreign language shows and listen to music, and try some international cuisine. Your child may just find he loves having the ability to read or speak another language.
- Ask — Sometimes the answer is right before your eyes. Just ask your child if he would like to learn a new subject with you. Having a say in the matter may make all the difference in how he approaches the subject.
How do you avoid keeping up with the Joneses?