Written by Laura Thomas of This Eternal Moment
A friend of mine who is also a public school teacher visited our home and had my five-year-old daughter read her a few books. She immediately concluded, “She’s reading at least on a first or second grade level.”
While in some ways, these types of comments can serve as an encouragement and/or relief to me (“Whew! Glad she’s not behind in her reading…”), they can provide a false standard of measurement for what success in learning looks like.
They could also cause my daughter to become prideful about where she ranks in comparison to other children her age, something I want to diligently fight against.
Another friend of mine, a lawyer as well as a fellow homeschooling mom, made the following observation to me:
“When I was in school, I always made As, but didn’t have to work hard for them. Rather than motivating me, it made me lazy. When I got to college I realized that I had never been challenged to push myself to keep learning. I merely knew what I had to do to make As and I did it. College was a big wake-up call for me.”
The more thought I have put into it, the more certain I have become that for our family, we won’t be labeling our academic achievement primarily by grade levels or other more external measurements.
Instead, I’ve created a few primary values and principles to guide me as a homeschooling mom and teacher:
1. Discover how my child learns.
Okay – some subjects aren’t fun for everyone all the time.
But as I learned when my daughter didn’t like math, that didn’t mean I needed to label her as “a kid who just doesn’t like math.”
Instead, I needed to figure out her learning style (she’s a visual/kinesthetic learner and can’t stand doing loads of black and white worksheets) and help her find a way to enjoy engaging in this subject.
When I switched to a curriculum that fit her learning style, she declared math to be her favorite subject!
2. Keep my child challenged.
So your child tackled Shakespeare at eight? Algebra at ten? That’s great. But don’t let it keep you from growing and pushing yourself to keep learning at a pace that keeps you challenged and inspired.
I personally think that one of the greatest aspects of homeschooling is the freedom we have to adjust what we do with our children based on what they need–rather than having to streamline their studies to fit with 20 other kids their age or an arbitrary academic standard for their age group.
3. Take my time.
Is your child six or seven and still struggling to read? That’s okay. Take your time. Avoid freaking out or labeling them as “struggling,” “behind,” or “delayed.”
I’ve heard more than one seasoned homeschooling mom or teacher say, “Children will read when they are good and ready.”
Have good resources available and keep encouraging them. Often, areas of concern will “snap into place” when the child is good and ready.
Do you think your child could benefit from going through certain material twice? Don’t feel pressured to rush on to the next level of something if your child isn’t quite ready. Help them master what’s before them so that they can move forward to the next level or topic with confidence and a proper foundation.
4. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter kid.
Each child is unique, talented in his or her own ways. When we choose to measure intelligence in only one way (say, by standardized test scores) we limit them and label them unnecessarily.
As Ken Robinson says in his brilliant and viral TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity, there are multiple types of intelligence that need to be acknowledged.
5. Find what my child loves and do it.
My greatest prayer and desire as a homeschooling mother is to help my children find and embrace their “calling” and “element” and walk in it.
Yes, I think it’s important that my child learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide even if she wants to be a professional journalist or writer.
But I also think it’s okay if she chooses to focus more of her time (especially as she gets older) on growing in the area or areas of her genuine gifting and passion.
Has it been a struggle for you to avoid labeling your child academically? Consider what you need to do moving forward to ensure that your child stays challenged, loves learning, and avoids unnecessary labeling.
What are some ways that you focus on fostering a love of learning in your home?