• Learning From The Student

    My husband and I had done all the “right” things. We waited almost 10 years into our marriage to have a child, allowing a decade to get to know each other and ourselves, to plan for the future and prepare our finances. We planned for an only-child and took the necessary steps to ensure this. When our son was born, we co-slept, breastfed, read to him, and talked to him constantly.

    The breastfeeding and co-sleeping were frowned upon my mother-in-law and others, who gave a variety of reasons for their disapproval. However when it came to these reasons (“He’ll never want to stop breastfeeding or sleep in his own bed”) we proved everybody wrong.

    The decision to homeschool came before the decision to have a child, and it was greeted with similar criticism to the other choices that we have made as parents. This seems inevitable, especially with a public school teacher for a mother-in-law, and siblings who have not been fortunate enough to have a partner to help rear their children. Our friends were mostly supportive, always commenting that if anyone could homeschool, I could.

    If only we could rely on our intelligence, organization skills and determination to get the job done! We are only part of the education equation. Even the best-laid plans and most extensive homeschooling guidebooks can provide only a modicum of assurance if we do not look at the whole picture.

    After our first year (2007-2008) of homeschooling my son, I lamented my failure to turn out a reader. Our housereading-baby-jpg was full of books. My husband and I had met in a comic book store, and bonded over a shared love of fantasy and sci-fi series. We both enjoyed reading a variety of fiction, literature, and poetry. When I was pregnant, I began buying books for our son, imagining myself reading “Alice in Wonderland”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Harry Potter” to him as he listened in his crib. I visualized him speaking perfect English as a result of the time spent reading to him.

    He was 4 years old as we began his kindergarten year. He knew his alphabet forwards and backwards. He knew letters were combined to create words. At 5 he was ahead of most kindergartners in math and vocabulary, but reading remained elusive at the end of our school year. Despite detailed guidance from a lengthy homeschooling classic, which I took very seriously, I had somehow gone wrong.

    For the first time in my life, doing something “right” had not led to the desired result.

    I immediately began analyzing the situation in depth. Phonics and parts to whole learning were considered the most appropriate way to teach children, and while my son picked up a rich and varied vocabulary, he detested phonics. He absorbed through conversation and being read to, but responded poorly to lessons that broke down language.

    Through my frantic analysis, I realized that the most appropriate way to teach most children was not necessarily the tack to take for all children. After all, wasn’t this one of my reasons for homeschooling in the first place? To avoid the “one size fits all” mentality of public school?

    I began to ponder the question, “How does my own child learn?” rather than “How should I teach my child?” After all, homeschooling is not about us – it is about them.

    When I began taking my son’s learning style into consideration, instead of my ideal teaching method, I realized I had a visual-spatial (or v/s) learner on my hands. Thanks to the support of an online homeschool forum and the blogs of other parents of v/s learners, I was able to make this connection and learn about how to better serve my son’s individual learning needs.

    One of the reasons for homeschooling is because we know how to meet our child’s needs better than a paid stranger. In recognizing that my left-handed, right-brained son takes after me (his left-handed, right-brained mother), I remembered that.

    Now that I am taking this into consideration, I know how to approach my son when it is time for our reading lessons. He may still take a while to read, but I know he will do it in his own time. Meanwhile, I will teach him, not the way I want to teach, but rather in the method from which he will benefit the most.

    For our first grade year, beginning this past September, I approached our phonics and reading lessons with a different text and a new attitude. My son responded more favorably to this new way of learning phonics. He began enjoying lessons as I felt free to be more creative with teaching. “Remember, you also make these vowel sounds when you scream! Aaaaa! Eeee! Iiiii!” (As a result of this little game, my son now screams out vowel sounds whenever he sees the letters on street and highway signs. It’s loud, but effective.)

    I also persevered with reading to my son, and he soon caught on to rhyming. After a year of my agonizing over his inability to put rhyming sounds together, it simply happened. Something clicked and he began chanting out his own little rhymes, partially because he was enjoying his new skill and partially because he knew it pleased me to hear them.

    This taught me the most important lesson; one that I lost sight of after my son weaned himself from breastfeeding, weaned himself to his own bed, and learned to use the potty in his own time. Sometimes a child just needs to do things when he or she is ready to do them. I should have remembered this after my mother-in-law scathingly stated last summer that our son had potty-trained himself, to which I responded proudly, “Yes, he did.” I was pleased that, rather than push my son to use the toilet at the age of 2 or 3, I had let him take his time. I introduced him to the concept when he was a toddler and encouraged it, but never forced it, thus saving myself the frustration I had seen other parents experience. He began using the toilet consistently just after his 4th birthday, and while many parents asked why it had taken so long, I explained that it was not for a lack of trying on my part. My philosophy had been, “You can lead a child to the toilet, but you can’t make them pee.” My laid-back approach was frowned upon, yet my potty-training method seemed to cause stress for everybody, except my son and me.

    How had I lost sight of this way of parenting when it came to my son’s education? When I recalled that this laid-back approach to life had made both my son and me happier, I realized it could work for homeschooling too. Once I considered this and stopped taking it all so seriously, my son was not only more comfortable with phonics lessons, he began excelling in all academic areas.

    As I look back, I realize that as with all the past choices we have made as parents, we will prove the critics wrong once more. Why?
    Because I do not listen to them; I listen to my son and accept that my young student has as much to teach me, as I have to teach him.
    This article was originally published in blog: Learning From The Student started by autumndivona
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Riceball_Mommy's Avatar
      Riceball_Mommy -
      This is a wonderful article and wonderful advice. I need to keep reminding myself to just listen to my daughter, and go at her pace. She'll understand it all on her own time.
    1. SunshineKris's Avatar
      SunshineKris -
      THANK YOU for this post! It comes at just the right time as I am "having issues" with my 4 year old (closer to 5 at this point). He won't fully potty train and I just can't get him interested in being still enough to "learn the proper way." My older two are no problem but I've allowed others to influence me in how I see the little guy. You have reminded me to just accept him for who he is and it will all come in time. It makes me even more grateful for our decision to homeschool. He will be able to do things in his time, not by some schedule deemed the right way by others. He won't be married still pooping in a diaper (I hope!); he won't refuse to read or sit with me forever.

      My favorite line? "Sometimes a child just needs to do things when he or she is ready to do them." This is to be my new philosophy. Thanks for the reminder.
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