Shift Happens

by Stephanie Elms, Annandale

Originally published in the 2014 Conference VaHomeschoolers Voice.

Homeschooling, in and of itself, requires a major shift in our thinking. At some point we embrace the idea that we can and should be the ones to take primary responsibility for our children’s learning. Some of us come to this realization easily and readily; others come kicking and screaming. But we all get there somehow.

I have found that homeschooling has led to many shifts in my thinking over the past 12 years. These shifts have largely come from watching my kids as they grow and learn, but they have also required conscious choices on my part.

Creating a Relationship With Learning

One of the most helpful shifts was related to my goals for my children’s education. When I first started home- schooling, by default I saw my main goal as being “to teach” my children. This makes sense; after all that is what edu- cation is all about right? Teachers teach. Children learn. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Except that I had an oldest child who did not want to be taught. He also had his own different (though perfectly normal for him) developmental time- table that did not match the “traditional” school timetable. Judging by that time- table, my early teaching efforts often appeared to fail. After all, I was trying to “teach him to read” and he was not read- ing by 5 (or 6 or 7…), therefore I had, for all intents and purposes, “failed.”

Over time (and with the help of more experienced homeschoolers) I started to see my role differently. I shifted my goal from that of “teaching” my child to that of helping my child create a relationship with learning. This shift in perspective has had many benefits. Focusing on creating a relationship with reading allowed immediate success, as he could learn to enjoy books well before he officially started reading. I also found that this shift reduced the pressure I was feeling, and that I was better able to trust my son’s learning process and allow it to unfold in its own time.

Seeing Resistance as a Form of Communication

I have learned that how I choose to interpret my kids’ actions greatly affects the way that I view them (and ultimately how I deal with them.) When I started shifting away from seeing my kids’ resistance as them being “stubborn” or “difficult” and instead started seeing it as a form of communication, I found myself less likely to take it personally and better able to help them learn how to work through it.

I found that there could be a variety of reasons behind the resistance. Some- times they were not developmentally ready for something. Sometimes they needed a different approach to things. Sometimes they were just handling things in an immature way (which is what kids do at times). Sometimes they were just overwhelmed and needed space. Sometimes they made poor judgments. Sometimes they made mistakes. Some- times they were right and I was wrong.

If I could get myself to look beneath resistance (admittedly not always an easy thing to do) I could often gain important insight into what was going on with my child. I have learned that kids do not resist us solely to make our lives difficult—they resist us because they don’t have a better way at the time to make themselves heard. It is my job, as the parent, to learn how to hear them.

Realizing There is No One Right Way

When I first started homeschooling, I read everything I could in order to find “the right way” to homeschool. And at various times, I have even felt as though I have found “it” (though that feeling is often fleeting). It is very easy to feel as if everything is up to me, that my choice of curriculum or approach will be the deciding factor on whether they get into college, whether they will get a good job, and whether they will be “successful” in general. As my kids (and my friends’ kids) get older, it is easier to see that there are many different paths leading to engaged and happy kids and that while our choices definitely influence our children, there are no guaranteed paths to success.

As my oldest gets closer to that magical age of 18, I am gaining a new appreciation of this fact. I am finding that during the high school years the call of “the one right way” siren has once again become remarkably strong. It is hard to ignore those niggling feelings that I am somehow doing him a disservice because we are on a different path. After all, common wisdom tells us we are almost done and everything counts now. I have to keep reminding myself that it would not make sense to expect him to suddenly jump back in the box just because he is now in high school. Once again, I am called on to trust the process. It has, after all, taken us this far.

There have been many other shifts… some big and some little. But they have all added up to growth as a parent and as a person. Ultimately, it has been, and continues to be, one heck of a learning experience—for me as much as for them.

About the Author

Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors.

Originally published in the 2014 Conference VaHomeschoolers Voice.

VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information

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