My first and second born are 7 years apart, so I have learned a lot in regards to homeschooling at the expense of the first. Unfortunately, he was sort of the guinea pig. Gratefully he didn’t fair too bad and the 7 years worth of one on one time made up for what I might have done wrong. I am not saying that I am now a perfect parent, but I have learned a few things from the journey of homeschooling my now graduating senior.
My oldest son is 2E. He has always read well above his grade level, is an excellent problem solver, and understands high-level math concepts. He was a difficult child to teach however. We butt heads often and I always felt he just resisted my teaching and me. At the age that he should have been able to do more independent work, he seemed to get slower and lazier. It seemed as if he wasn’t retaining anything. After all the incredible literature we had read and analyzed together, all of the countless hours I had read to him, and all of the spelling and phonics lessons we had done, how could it be that he was still an atrocious speller, takes hours to complete an assignment that should only take 20 minutes and constantly makes what I considered to be careless mistakes? I was certain that he was just lazy and disobedient.
By this time, my second born was about 3 years old and I saw in him a lot of the same developmental characteristic my first born had. Neither of them spoke very coherently until they were about 4, but my second born was much more delayed than my first. My second born is a musical prodigy, but this gift could not cover his language disabilities, whereas the gifts of my first-born were able to mask some of those same language challenges that my second had. Because of the language delays in my second born, I started to research learning disabilities. Through my research, I discovered stealth dyslexia, auditory and language processing disorders, and the twice-exceptional child. I was humbled and convinced that my oldest had all of these. I was determined not to overlook these issues with my second, but this is a subject for a future blog.
I had assumed that my firstborn’s resistance to school work was because of laziness. Now I understand that he just didn’t get it. The words and information get jumbled up in his head. Information retrieval is not an inherent skill of his. It doesn’t matter how much I read to him, or how often we analyze literature, the information in his head just does not get processed correctly. In the last 5 years, however, things are finally clicking and I think it is because I am seeing “him” and God’s design for him. He is a visionary and science orientated and I wish I had seen that in the beginning. I had on blinders, and could only see my vision for my child, but my vision was not God’s.
Now with my little ones, I look for those things that they delight in, and that drive them and I let them run with it. I don’t get hung up on what lesson they are on, or how much they have read. If my daughter wants to spend the whole day sewing and designing clothes, I let her. If my musical prodigy wants to spend the whole day drumming and playing his guitar, I let him. Fact is that in order to get good at the things they delight in, they have to know how to read, and they have to have basic math skills, so that is how I hook them in.
My second born has to work 5 times as hard as my younger 3 to be able to read and comprehend as well, so I have to ask myself how much of that is necessary in the big picture. Honestly, I believe he was created to be a rock star for God’s glory, so how much reading and math is really necessary? I will teach him the basics and if he wants to know more I will teach it. This was never my attitude with my oldest. It was always that he had to be at this level in reading and math or else I was a failure. Now days, if my children show frustration, resistance, or even tears, I change it and find something that they like. If they aren’t getting it, I stop and bring it back later, sometimes even a year later. I don’t care what level they are at, but only that they know more than they did last year. I focus on the things they can do well. We move as slow or as fast as we want. They play a lot. They create a lot. My younger children know who they are, because I have let them discover the things that they are good at and delight in.
There are many things I wish I could go back in time and do over with my firstborn, but that thinking is futile, so I have picked up the pieces. I have put together those pieces that fit into his personality and have thrown out those pieces that don’t. He has been allowed to pursue the activities that drive him and because of this, he has grown into an excellent example of a God fearing young man who takes great care of his younger siblings and has the utmost respect for his parents. He loves to be with his family and even willingly takes his younger siblings to the movies and on outings with his other teenage friends. He is a musical composer and mad scientist at heart and I am a thrilled to see where he will go with that. He no longer has that lazy attitude. He willingly tries even those things that are hard, probably because I don’t badger him for taking too long. I keep those assignments that I know will be difficult, short and simple. I am happy if he obtains a basic knowledge of the subject and more times than not, he is now pushing himself to get it right and even to find out more. School time is more enjoyable for everyone, and all of my kids and I have a better understanding of God’s purpose for each one of us. This is homeschooling for the glory of God.