Today, we're excited to have a guest post from Leah Nieman, homeschool mom and Co-founder of CurrClick.com. We love this story about one mom who learned to choose materials that met her child's unique learning needs instead of following what her friends or popular curricula suggested.
I remember so clearly the day my daughter cried. I remember it like yesterday because I cried later that evening as well. Although that moment won’t stand out to anyone but me, it marked a turning point in our homeschool lives.
My daughter was always incredibly enthusiastic about “school work.” She’s a visual learner. I like to joke with her and say she lives solely in the right side of her brain, visiting the left side on a “needs to” basis. She was always good at math and science but those were never her favorite subjects. And she always processed them from a more artistic point of view.
This wonderful child of mine is also a perfectionist. Every coloring page was always colored with care. Each handwriting page was written beautifully with no errors. When it came to math she handled her worksheets fine, but most curriculum came with timed practice sheets. Because she processed math differently, she rarely finished these in the 2, 3, or 5 minutes allowed. This caused her great stress.
I spoke to other moms who insisted it was most important she be able to do these timed fact sheets. They weren't being judgmental at all. They were simply sharing their opinion because I asked. And, this was something that was strongly encouraged in the program they were using. My daughter knew her math facts, but I now had it in my head we really needed to work on these timed fact sheets. I feared I would put my daughter at some terrible disadvantage if we didn’t find a program that would help her learn this skill, so I began to look for resources to help. This only cause more stress for both of us. Nothing says to a child “Hey I’m really freaking out that you aren’t learning this” like hitting them with a steady stream of products one after the other-all teaching the same skill. I’m ashamed to admit at one point we had an entire section of our bookshelf filled with products all focused on this one skill! We had card games, bingo games, audio songs, triangular flashcards-you name it, we had it!
One day, after numerous attempts and countless products, I finally had my sweet daughter in tears at the kitchen table. Through her tears were words like…”I’m stupid!” and “I just can’t do math!”
None of this was true. She could do math perfectly. In fact, she was actually ahead in her math curriculum by a year. She just couldn’t spit out her math facts quickly. She was trying her hardest and still she felt like she was failing. In that moment watching her cry, I knew I had one of my biggest homeschool mom failures. I had been listening to the priorities of every other homeschool mom instead of focusing on what was best for my child. It was heartbreaking, eye opening and a big turning point in how I approached learning in our home.
I apologized to my daughter that afternoon. We talked about true education-it’s learning and there is no right or wrong way. We began approaching our days and our homeschool focusing on what was best for her. My role as her mom was to help support her and guide her so she would become a lifelong learner. It was not to crush her in the process. The same was true for my son's education. He is a very different learner, so the learning plans for both my kids turned out very different.
I’m so thankful that lesson came early in our homeschool journey. It changed the approach I took with my kids. I wanted to grow lifelong learners, but until that moment I was still stifling them. I was too busy listening to what everyone else was saying was “the best” or “the most important” educational path to see what was naturally best for my kids.
We’re entering convention season. Many of us are reading homeschool blogs, magazines, and articles. Many of us will even be heading to homeschool conventions. It’s exciting to learn about the various ways to educate our children. And, we do want to learn about what’s available in the homeschool market. We also want to seek out information and advice from the homeschool community. Our community is an awesome resource of support and we want to stay connected! But, when thinking through all the great stuff on the market, remember first your kids and their learning styles. Ask yourself is this product a fit for them? Will it work for the way they naturally learn? Is it causing tears or crushing the learning desire of my child? Then make your curriculum selections based on your answers. And, don’t ever feel trapped by something that’s not working. One benefit of homeschooling is you are always in control of your child’s curriculum. If something isn’t working, set it aside and find a product that does work and move forward. The goal is always to create lifelong learners.
Hi! I’m Leah Nieman. I’m a wife, homeschool mom and Co-founder of CurrClick.com. My husband and I live with our 2 children in Central, Illinois. We’ve homeschooled since 2001 and have just crossed the “homeschool finish line” with our oldest daughter. I’ve been using eCurriculum and other forms of online educational resources in our home since 2002. I juggle family life, homeschooling and work while trying to keep it all balanced with the amazing love and support of my family. It’s somewhat of a learning curve and I find it’s always a work in progress.