It’s the end of another school year. I did it! I mean, my son did it. But it was mostly me. OK, fine. It was all him.
We just finished our first year of homeschooling, together, as a team. My son is 5 and he just completed pre-school at home. I know, not a big deal to many. But to me, it’s a huge accomplishment. My son, Isaac, is rambunctious. He isn’t bad, just spirited. And smart and funny. And loud and intense. And I’m not the most patient mom in the world. That’s my fault, not his.
I knew it would be a challenge going into this endeavor. Homeschooling is tough and there haven’t been too many supporters. But when my husband and I started having kids, we both agreed this is what we wanted. Once Isaac started talking and asking questions, we knew he was bright. He understands some subjects I was surprised about. But just like any five-year-old, he doesn’t understand a lot, too.
Pre school was my “try out year,” I kept telling myself. This was where I’d figure it all out. It would be the year to learn how he learns and learn how I teach. I really learned that I had way too many expectations. For my son and for myself.
First of all, it takes way more than a year to figure out how to teach! Just because you know your kids better than anyone else doesn’t mean that you know anything. It took me more than half the school year to figure out that my son responds very well to worlds of affirmation and encouragement. He doesn’t care for repetitive instruction or firm criticism. This was hard for me because I wanted to be teaching a high school student who understood directions the first time and remembers what every letter sounds like. I was wrong.
Secondly, my expectations were way too high for a four going on five-year-old. We started the school year off with him already knowing how to count to ten and pick out each number. I thought this would be a breeze. “Look at how smart my kid is!” I would think to myself. “He already knows half the material on day one!” I kept bragging internally. Smack!! Just kidding. Don’t get me wrong, he did know those things. He did really well…for the first week. He understood what I wanted form him and he delivered without fail. For five days. Then the material advanced and while he still figured things out, it took work. I wanted him to just grasp everything all at once. It’s letters and numbers! How hard could this be? Well, for a person who has literally never seen a written language, it was extremely difficult. Letters don’t sound the way you think they should. Some look really similar. Others look really strange and sound remarkably close to a different letter. I developed a new respect for pre-school teachers. I was so glad that it was me who was suffering through this with my son, and not some innocent lady who would strangle him for his failures. Who was I kidding? There was nothing wrong with my son! There was something wrong with me!
Lastly, just because the school year ends doesn’t mean he’s a master of the material. He understands counting and patterns and matching and opposites kind of, and letters almost not at all. And that’s OK! He will learn. He will figure it out. One day, it will click and he will get it. He will know that the letter M doesn’t sound like “eh” as in “elephant.” He will know that the letter G sounds different than the letter J…sometimes. And every single letter will make sense and then they will make words and those words will create sentences that he will read or written.
I learned more this year than Isaac did. I’ve learned that expectations are horrible and I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve learned that a five-year-old shouldn’t be expected to be perfect. I’ve learned that I shouldn’t expect to be perfect. I’ve learned that even though this is what we want and what we believe is best for our family, it will still take a lot of work. I will struggle through a lot of this. I will fail. But my son loves me and I love him and at the end of the day, if he’s happy and healthy and knows that I’m working hard for him, we will all survive.
Until my 3-year-old starts school next year.