Last week, one of my daughters wrote in cursive. We had worked on it last year but then set it aside and focused on fine-tuning their printing instead. Cursive just wasn’t sticking. A few weeks ago, I re-taught the letter “a” in cursive, but the days have been busy and I never did get around to any further review.
But last week, my seven-year old asked me to show her how to do a few different cursive letters. So I did. She put those letters together with some letters she remembered from last year … and wrote a sentence.
She was finally ready to learn, so she did.
It was the same way with reading. Since the beginning of the year, her reading skills have increased exponentially. She has developed an intense interest in reading longer chapter books, and I often find her curled up with her nose in a novel, oblivious to the world around her.
Kids learn when they’re ready.
The Homeschool Teacher’s Responsibility
That my children might not be ready doesn’t absolve me from teaching them, nor does it provide me with an excuse for laziness, of course. It’s my responsibility to lay the foundation.
To “spread the feast”.
When I give my children work, I expect them to do it (and do it with excellence). However, I also need to balance that expectation with a certain level of discernment. Sometimes, we must set things aside for a little bit.
Or camp on them for a while until they “stick”.
Or teach them a different way.
Or go back and review the concepts that lead up to the one with which they’re struggling.
This sounds intuitive, but it was a lesson I learned the hard way. When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, I chose a demanding math curriculum that had her adding double digit with single digit numbers by the end of the year. It was too difficult for her, but I was unmoved even by her tears. I forced her to finish the program because “we’re not quitters”.
It took several years to undo the damage.
As you get to know your child, you start to get a sense of when to persist and when to withdraw. Setting something aside is not a sign of defeat. Sometimes, it’s just wisdom.
Curriculum is a Tool
I once heard Sarah MacKenzie (from Read-Aloud Revival) speak to a large crowd of homeschool moms, and she gave the best advice ever. She told us to never become slaves to curriculum, but instead to make the curriculum work for us. The experts who write curriculum do not know your individual child. They are not familiar with your family dynamic or your specific set of circumstances. They are creating a tool. “Never let the tool become the master,” she advised.
Words to live by.
Perhaps your four-year old isn’t able to grasp letter sounds. My youngest isn’t, although my oldest certainly was at that age (she ended up reading The Hobbit in first grade). And although my oldest daughter’s math struggles were complicated by our kindergarten curriculum choices, my middle child has a knack for numbers and is working on difficult multiplication problems in second grade. There’s really no comparison between them because all children are different.
If your child is not grasping a concept, you’re not doing anyone a favour by plowing ahead. The biggest blessing of homeschooling is that we are able to teach for mastery.
So if your child is struggling? Don’t force it but also don’t give up. Keep laying that foundation and spreading that feast. One day, it’ll click.
They’ll learn it when they’re ready.