It’s a weighty responsibility that we undertake, teaching our children at home. We put ourselves in the midst of a great experiment. We are like scientists with a hypothesis to prove, hoping that our laboratory efforts will go the way we expect.
As I watch my oldest son advance into higher levels of schooling and observe his attention to his studies and his care and kindness toward others, I
sigh squeal with excitement, “The experiment is working!”
I may joke that my 14-year-old is my “guinea pig,” but that’s really the case with all children in all families, regardless of school style. We just don’t know how personalities and circumstances will blend, nor can we completely predict the outcome.
And so it is with homeschooling as it is in parenting in general: Life is subject to change — and to error.
Part and parcel with teaching my children at home comes the joy of learning — together. Sometimes that means learning from our mistakes. And on more than one occasion, my mistakes. Sometimes my experiment doesn’t go the way I had hoped.
Since I consider my kids to be pretty bright, I figure that they know my fallibility and imperfection. The older boys certainly do. But sometimes I need to ‘fess up when I’ve made a mistake.
1. Admit it to yourself.
Over the last few weeks we here at Simple Homeschool shared our curriculum experiences as well as our plans for the coming year. In my post I told my tale of woe as concern’s our family’s math curriculum. In our homeschool, we have bounced back between Saxon, Teaching Textbooks, and back to Saxon.
Your comments on my post, in which I explained this tennis game of Math, gave me pause and caused me to reflect on why we were playing that game of back and forth. I realized that I couldn’t answer readers’ questions intelligently. I realized that I had made some decisions based on other people’s experiences and in a fit of panic.
Oh how hard that was to admit to myself, let alone anyone else. I had made a mistake. Maybe we hadn’t needed to switch after all?
2. Seek an outside opinion.
When we find ourselves facing our own mistakes, it’s easy to go overboard in berating ourselves or in justifying why we did it in the first place. That’s when we need to get outside input. In interviewing Susan Wise Bauer recently, she counseled us moms “to invite a critical gaze you trust.” That feedback, she said, will either be “corrective or reassuring.”
In my case I talked with a more experienced homeschooling mom who
- had sent kids successfully into college and the work force
- knew my kid personally
- knew the curricula in question
- knew what it is to be a crazy mom of many trying to do the best for every individual
My eldest son’s science teacher, a US Naval Academy graduate and Science/Math enthusiast, had great input for me regarding math curricula. She suggested we return to Teaching Textbooks, especially since we were struggling with the alternatives and having a rough Math game all the way around. We agreed that even if the program “had gaps” — though she had never experienced any gaps with her kids — it was better than frustrating my child with a “more rigorous curriculum.”
“OK Algebra” is better than very little, hard, discouraging Algebra.
So, my plan is to return to Teaching Textbooks with extra math facts drill for the younger kids and supplementing with “real life” math on a regular basis.
3. Explain your mistake (and solution) to your kids.
For some parents this may be tough. We falsely assume that our parents had it all together and that parents in general should never show weakness. I disagree.
True leaders are honest.
If we’re to lead our children into adulthood, then we need to be honest and admit when we’ve made mistakes. Don’t lay it on too thick; don’t make excuses either. Explain the facts and your plan to remedy the situation.
My particular hiccup over math curriculum has probably created more “gaps” than it filled. But once they understood that I was taking responsibility for the situation, that they were not at fault for a poor math year, my kids were more than amenable to the solution.
4. Move on.
Once you’ve admitted your mistake to yourself and to your children, sought objective counsel, and determined a solution, then it’s time to move on. It’s no use beating yourself up. Especially since you’ll make another mistake next week!
Life is full of coulda, shoulda, wouldas. We’d be making mistakes as parents, no matter our schooling choice. The big question is not, “What if you make a mistake?” Instead we need to ask ourselves, “How will I respond when I do?”
How do you handle your mistakes?