Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Being Your Child's Biggest Fan

Look in those eyes and see the wonder of Him.

Homeschooling is definitely on the rise, but still a minority choice. That means people are sometimes curious, sometimes nosy about how smart or not-so-smart my kids are. And always, the things they look for are: how about those math facts; can they read chapter books yet; have they written their first novel; do they know their state capitals and who their local Representative is?

Not really, but you get the picture.

So there we were at a dinner party with people we seldom see. After dinner I get handed a mid-first-grade Dick and Jane reader. My hostess wants my daughter Beth to read it--Beth being one week older than my hostess' granddaughter.

I knew six years ago when my hostess' daughter-in-law had her baby a week after I gave birth, that the girls would be compared to each other through the years. Beth walked at nine months, while the other girl walked at fourteen months. The other girl could read very early, and Beth, not much more than three-letter words at the same time.

I'm not worried about Beth's reading. She read the Dick and Jane with some help on the sight words, but it wasn't fluent and at first I struggled to feel comfortable, with my hostess listening intently.

But you know? Beth giggled through that book and really enjoyed the experience. The awkward language seemed to intrigue her, although if I gave her Dick and Jane regularly, she'd hate it I am sure. Good primers, which we use in All About Reading, are far more engaging and the language is natural, helping new readers make inferences. I don't hate the Dick and Jane books (I own five of them), but their usefulness is narrow and I haven't taken them off my shelf in the past 12 months. The sight words are too advanced for a beginning first grader, and yet the repetitiveness makes the book too boring.

Nevertheless, I settled into our little impromptu reading session and decided to enjoy my creative, engaging, beautiful daughter, who does like to cuddle with Momma and read. She likes to draw and create and make her own books rather than read others', but that's okay with me.

To love our children well, we have to drown out a lot of noise and focus on the precious gift that is each child. Yes, it's easier when kids learn everything fast and work ahead. It's a safe place to be, parenting wise. No matter how nosy they are, people would be hard pressed to come up with anything to hold against you, the homeschooling parent.

In case you're ever in the hot seat, so to speak, about how smart your kids are, take heart and remember these important truths:

~  Believe me, you'd rather have a godly child than a smart one. If your family devotional times are longer than your reading segments with your first grader, you're on track.

~ Believe me, you'd rather have a nice child than a smart one. If your character training sessions are longer than your daily math lessons, you're on track. Do you really want a kid who graduates Harvard, yet neglects his or her family?  A whole lot of training and prayer precedes an enduring marriage, and such a marriage pleases God exceedingly.

~ Intelligence is about more than math-fact retrieval or how soon you memorize the state capitals, and in the earliest years there's a lot of variation. Children who read earlier don't necessarily become better, or even avid, readers. The other kids catch up soon enough. And not everybody needs immediate fact retrieval.

In my daily life I've used only a small fraction of all the math I've ever been taught--all the way up to a year of calculus in college, passing with C's and a B minus. In fact, I don't even use the math my 7th grader is currently learning (and that I'm relearning).

~ Your goal should be a child who can solve problems confidently--whether they be interpersonal, academic, or spiritual. Flexible thinking is ideal and it isn't taught in books.

~ Every child is uniquely gifted and if you only see her through a report card, you're missing out. Go on a discovery mission about who your child is at her core. Be amazed and be flexible.

~ Is your child a reflection of you? Yes and no. Her ability to love and express compassion in most cases probably is. Her rate of learning new information? No.

Parents can get stuck on a lot of different things on this parenting journey. There's the youth sports cartel: "You mean, your child doesn't play organized sports? Really?" There's the dancing and piano-playing cartel. Of course it goes on and on and you get reeled in.

Don't give your child empty compliments, but do be his biggest fan. Watch your children unfold like the beautiful blossoms they are, perfectly formed by a loving Heavenly Father.


multicolouredsmartypants.com said...

Beautiful post. I love the fact that both my girls are bright and work hard at school, but I absolutely agree that their character and their knowledge of God is more important than anything else. My son is never going to achieve academically. He'll be unlikely to even get a job, but everyone who meets him says what a lovely boy he is. He's polite and kind (when he understands another person's needs). I think we could improve in the time spent doing devotions. I'm going to have to have a think.

Lisa said...

Love this post! I was playing the "comparing game" when we first began homeschooling our 2 oldest children. But thankfully, I finally outgrew that. My children are who God created them to be, and character training is far more important that academics could ever be. :)

Amber said...

Wonderful post! I myself have been questioned and my kiddos have been quizzed on math or other facts to see if they know what they "should" know. I drives me crazy but I know that no matter where they are academically, I know they're far ahead in character. We work hard on the academics but I am far more concerned that my children grow up as happy, well adjusted, God loving, caring and compassionate people, which I am happy to say that they are very much all of those things now.

I needed this post today, as I still find myself worrying about those things and whether or not they are learning enough "schoolish" stuff, when I know that they are doing great and right where thy need to be.

Christine said...

We just finished with VBS so I am behind on commenting. Thank you for sharing your hearts, each of you. It is good to see the fruit of our efforts and of God's faithfulness in their characters. Happy parenting to us all.