As a homeschooling mom, I had the tendency to focus on my children’s weakest areas, giving them the most attention and criticism.
Spelling was an area of weakness for all of my children when they were young. And although they were good writers, I would read their papers and rather than looking at the content, the plot development, the creativity, I would point out their misspelled words – circling them in red – and would make them work on them. Things like, “This isn’t a sentence, where is the noun? I taught you nouns just last week!” would come from my lips before I even considered the effect of such a comment on my child. I often demoralized my children, when I had the opportunity to encourage them. The immediate result was their lack of motivation, their feeling of inadequacy, and certainly not a love for learning. This was not my intention. I often had to ask for their forgiveness.
It is hard to separate the roles of ‘mother’ and ‘teacher’ and perhaps we shouldn’t, because if done well, the mother/teacher is a loving, nurturing, guiding light in a child’s life. But, if done poorly, the mother/teacher is a nagging, disappointed, discouraging person who can stifle any desire in a child to pursue academic excellence. I regret to have to admit I was sometimes a poor combination of mother and teacher to my children.
The circumstance which opened my eyes to this fact was when my son went to his first writing workshop taught by a friend of mine. I was to stay out of the teaching mode as she worked with my son, but I did see her comments on his work. I was suddenly aware of the contrast between us. In sentences that were not grammatically correct, she simply wrote, ‘I really like the idea you are pursuing here, but the wording is difficult for me to understand. Please re-write it with me in mind.’ Or perhaps she would give an alternative suggestion and ask which he thought best communicated his idea. Oh, the difference a few words can make! These comments made my son feel intelligent and creative. He worked to make his writing better, not to please a mother who was never satisfied, but to make his writing better. I learned a good lesson that year about teaching (and about my own pride, I might add).
I did change my approach with my children. I wanted to become their coach rather than their critic. I tried to communicate my interest in their success and that we were on the same team striving for a mutual goal. I encouraged and challenged them in the areas of their strength; I also pointed out the areas of weakness with more sensitivity and objectivity. I shared my own weaknesses and the ways in which I tried to overcome them.
The results of these alterations in my style of teaching bore much better fruit – my children were more enthusiastic and our home school was more positive.
We will fail, as will our children, often. But these times are a perfect opportunity to go to God, ask for forgiveness, and to try again.