For those planning a summertime school break, flip-flops and fun in the sun are just around the corner. But now is also the time when worry can sneak in. We are never going to finish this curriculum in time. Joe still can’t do his multiplication tables. Will Susan ever learn to conjugate French verbs? If you find yourself thinking like this, I want you to know I’ve walked in your shoes and understand your feelings, but please believe me when I say don’t worry!
Those of us who attended public school were told things like, “Multiplication must be mastered by third grade,” “Chemistry is for 9th graders,” and “Kids should be reading by the time they are seven.” It’s hard to shake the ingrained notion that there is a “right” time to learn specific skill sets.
When my son was a toddler, I read a book that claimed he could potty train in a single weekend. The basic premise was to load the child up with soda, place him on the potty, and reward him with candies if he achieved the set goal. This went against all of my parenting instincts, but I was a new mom. I worried that if we didn’t accomplish teaching this skill on the “experts” timetable, I would be failing my son.
This contrived system didn’t work; my son simply was not ready. Instead, he was busy learning a whole range of other complex and amazing skills, such as language, mobility, and creative play. Later (when he was almost three and ready for it), my son potty trained himself with ease.
As conscientious parents, we can become anxious when our kids don’t follow the same academic paths that experts deem “normal.” Thinking my son should be reading, I remember buying BOB books and attempting to teach him to read. I went through the motions doing everything I could, but he wasn’t ready. Once again, he was developing other critical skills, like playing cooperatively with siblings, kicking a ball, and making new friends.
We took a break. In time, I saw signs indicating my son was ready to read. Snuggling him onto my lap, we worked through Hooked on Phonics with joy and confidence.
Reflecting on both of these experiences, it’s clear that our kids know intuitively what they need to learn and when. They are the true experts. Failure to recognize our kids’ cues leads to frustration, tears, and damaged self-confidence.
Here’s the good news. You are a homeschooling family and there is no need to adhere to strict schedules and irrelevant timelines. If your child is struggling with a specific skill for too long, it’s ok to take a break. You can return to that learning goal when your child shows signs of readiness. In the meantime, play, read, and exercise together. Pursue other academics and interests your child is ready to tackle. Above all else, enjoy these special moments together.
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