Weekend reflections: You have time.
More than enough. No matter where you are in the journey, time is on your side.
Your child *should* be reading? How does rushing help? How does panicking about time enhance the quality of the work you do together? How does adding pressure to the mix create space for your child to grow and learn and discover?
Your child is at the critical age (7, 10, 12, 15, 17! 19 gasp!). You can’t let the child slide any more. It’s TIME to get serious about X, Y, and Z because it all counts now….So what will you do? Buckle down? Press harder? Generate more tension and resistance? Put the child in school, ground the teen, remove computer privileges? This strategy will yield learning, and will make up for lost time, how? This pressuring and panicking will prepare your child for life after living at home, how?
All you have is time. There’s no law in the book that says your child has to be in college at 18, or ready for high school at 14, or reading by 9. These are made up, to suit a big bunch of people passing through an impersonal system.
You are at home.
Take your time. You have oodles of it.
If you are truly concerned about a child’s progress, pick one area and focus on it. But focus on it not in a panicky, “We are behind; you are resistant and willful” kind of way. Focus on it like a tangled necklace that requires your reading glasses, full concentration, and patience as you really see the threads, one at a time, and you slowly, gently tease them apart until Voila! The whole chain slips free of itself.
Your child needs your patience, not your urgency. Your child needs your reassurance that you will take whatever time necessary to solve this puzzle. Your child needs you to look into resources and references that train you to be a better parent during this challenging season. Your child needs you to tease apart the threads—the details of what isn’t working, not just the general panic that says, “Oh my word! He is so behind!”
You may also need to examine whether the timeline in your head is even realistic or necessary. It is difficult to let go of our traditions around education. I remember when I realized that Liam needed four years of junior high level work, not three. It was a great decision to step out of “grade level” and simply focus on learning and enjoying that year together.
He is also taking a year and a half off between high school and college, just this year, meaning he’ll start college in the fall at age 20. What’s wrong with that? Why wouldn’t we be okay with that choice? Ironically, this is the kid who learned to read the earliest of any of our kids (age 6). So being “ahead” back then didn’t mean he was ready to go to college more quickly or even when most kids go.
We home educators need to stop being so enamored with the educational framework we inherited from traditional school. What is required, is being tuned into your child!
Have you heard the phrase: “Go slow to go fast”?
If you slow your pace to really grasp the details, the meaning, the skill set required for your child—if you practice and master those aspects of the subject area that are essential rather than brushing by them or giving them cursory attention or whizzing through a workbook without total comprehension or mastery—in the end, you will be a whiz at performing using those skills and tools. You’ll know what you are doing and you won’t be stopped by ambivalence, confusion, hesitation, and uncertainty. You will “go fast” because you “went slow” at the start.
Reorient your clock to human being time, not school time. Help your children to “go slow, to go fast.”
If your child is not interested in writing, turn your attention to your child’s interests. Capture some of them in writing for your child. Use writing in your child’s presence and be interested in what your child says (what words come out of his or her mouth). Be an advocate for your child’s limits—give the tools and resources, carve time from the full schedule to “go slow” with writing. One letter or one word at a time, for a good long while, may be the best way forward. No pressure, just care and consistency.
If you are lying awake at night worried about a child who is showing chronic lack of progress in a specific area of education, you will want to consult an expert for assessment. This is good parenting. Be careful not to push the panic button, though. This is a step you take after having gone slowly. Spend unhurried time getting to know your child’s specific struggle rather than rushing to judgment. You might discover the key that unlocks the gate through your own patient work.
For instance, it was when I paid closer attention to Johannah’s struggle with reading that I finally saw what was happening for her. She was unable to recognize the alphabet when the fonts varied or changed (it was like trying to read 7-10 alphabets for her, rather than a single one). Once I “caught” what was happening, I tailored our phonics work to mastering the alphabet first, as it showed up in cursive, manuscript, serif and sans serif fonts. Next thing you knew, she read!
She was nearly 9, but that hasn’t limited her in a single way as an adult.
Read the manual, understand the instructions, fine tune your philosophy, test the practice yourself (can you follow the instructions? can you work the problems? how does it feel to do copywork in another langauge?). See if you can approximate what is happening for your child. Become a student of your students.
Your job isn’t to push your children through a body of information by 18. Your choice, as a home educator, is to take the time required to get to know each of your children intimately so that you might facilitate the best, tailor-made education for each one that you can. You are supposed to take time to do it, and you are not responsible to ensure that it all happens at the same speed as traditional schooling.
“Go slow to go fast.”