…Eager and Early Learners
I can remember my husband buying a book on our honeymoon entitled, “Teach Your Baby to Read.” We had already planned to homeschool our children, when they came, but this was not what I had in mind. A year later our first child was born and that book sat on the shelves. Though I was determined not to push reading on my infant daughter, I did assume I would begin teaching her at a relatively early age. By the time she was eighteen months, we were well into flash cards of letters and phonemes. At the time it seemed simple—she had an inordinately long attention-span and was not a particularly active child. She preferred to sit upon my then pregnant belly and spout out letters, shapes, colors, etc. By the time she was four, she was reading and writing simple sentences. I, of course, beamed with pride and wished for opportunities whereby people could stumble upon the fact of her genius. We continued along in this vein and she progressed along schedule. I couldn’t have been more pleased when she was reading all the Little House on the Prairie books and writing short stories in kindergarten.
So, for several years I pushed her and pushed her to be a prolific reader and writer. It probably had a lot to do with pride, but it wasn’t just that—I felt a deep responsibility to cultivate her God-given talents. To be a good steward of her gifts, so to speak. I pushed her in every area, and as a dutiful eldest child she seemed up to the task. She strove to please me and everyone around her and to be a model child. But all was not well. Our daughter was struggling with emotional issues. She became a classic worrier and felt she could never quite keep up with the expectations we set on her. We didn’t see it that clearly at first and thought it had more to do with trauma after the accidental death of our neighbor. The emotional problems intensified–unwinding into several complicated years of ups and downs; all the while we were brought to our knees begging the Lord to give us wisdom. What we eventually saw, through a series of events and with the help of the books by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, was that she was under immense pressure to perform in every area. As the eldest of our four children, we expected her to set an example for the rest. She did this admirably—so admirably in fact that we missed how it was hurting her on the inside. For a long time we focused on having her memorize relevant scripture—to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We were on the right track, but not addressing the whole problem. The rest of the problem was not in her heart and mind, but in that of her parents. To put it simply, we were stressing her out. Unfortunately, we hadn’t really figured this out yet.
It took another year before we truly came to see what we were doing to her. She began to no longer enjoy reading or writing and could no longer think well. It seemed, in fact, like she wasn’t learning anything. We all trudged along while learning slowed down and enjoyment waned. I can’t say that there was an aha moment when everything came together and suddenly changed for the better. What I do know is that things are improving for the whole family and it has a lot to do with changes in me. It’s a daily challenge to trust the Lord more than myself and to believe that He has a plan.
I expect a lot of my kids—I don’t think that will ever change. I am attempting to find the balance between maintaining high standards while eschewing unreasonable expectations. It’s difficult to simplify the last ten years of this journey into a few simple paragraphs. I am still struggling to learn that it is okay to allow kids to advance at their own pace and to not push on them societal norms about academics. Children who grow up in a home where learning is clearly important will incorporate that ideal into their own. The problems and their solutions are far more complex than what is written here. Hopefully though, with the Lord’s help, we are at least on the right track.