Thursday, April 10, 2014

Respect and Trust

I got into a conversation with someone I don't really know as my kids were playing.  I've only talked to him a couple other times and he knew my littlest was shy and asked if she talked  much at home.  She talks a LOT at home and actually talks better at a younger age than both her older sisters did.  This is a common phenomenon.  Then we talked about my oldest daughter who was very active physically at a really young age.  He then asked me something that is the point of this blog post.

"So, she was good at sports and everything at a young age?  And is she well rounded now?  I mean academically."

The question caught me off guard and I didn't say anything super brilliant at the time, just politely talked about the things she's good at, but here's what I keep thinking.  If someone was talking about a child who learned to read at a really young age and excelled in school but wasn't able to draw recognizable pictures or who couldn't climb a tree without seriously hurting themselves or who didn't know how to knit -- would someone say about that "left-brain dominant learner" --- "That's great that she loves to read all the time and got straight A's on math worksheets so young, but is she well rounded now?"


People would also NOT ask that question of an adult who is an excellent writer or musician or professional athlete.  "Hey, Mr. Professional athlete.  You are great at what you do and all, but jee don't you ever read Plato?  You know, you really should learn algebra to be well rounded as a person."

Think about it.

No, really.. think this through.  What do we do to our children?  We look at what they aren't good at more than what they are gifted in and work on the parts that they can't do as well.  UNLESS what they happen to be good at falls into the culturally appropriate thing to learn at that particular age.  In that case then we expect perfection.  Get a good grade?  You missed a couple things so you could do better.  Write a story?  Let me point out the grammatical errors for ya.

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to teach them things that they do need to learn, but the amount shouldn't be such that we cause hatred of that subjects.  It shouldn't be 90% working on weaknesses and 10% working on what they are actually gifted in.

All mother's worry about their kids right?  We love them and want to do the best for them.  We have different ways of doing this because our children are different and we are different and we value different denominations or schooling styles because (whatever we choose) we think it is what is best for our kids.  Your choices will be different from mine and I'm not saying that you don't love your kids as much as I do because you are choosing something different than what I've chosen.  What I am advocating is respecting our children as people.  Do we talk to them as we would an adult?  As parents, do we take every opportunity to turn something into a "teaching moment" or do we simply enjoy them?  How demeaning is it to be told to "go out of the room and try again" when we are reminded that we forgot to knock on the door or that we said something the "wrong way"... how demeaning is it for our children to be quizzed by adults about things they may or may not have learned yet?  Even if they HAVE learned certain math facts (for instance) why is it okay to ask a kid to randomly do a calculation?

My 8 year old made this all on her own.  3 D paper fairy doll.  She said she didn't like paper dolls because they are flat and she wanted to make a paper doll that wasn't flat.  I love the fact that my girls can do things like this all on their own initiative completely out of their own head without any help from me!  That's something to be proud of.  :)
When you are an adult it's okay to say, "I'm not good at math" or to use a calculator, but in a child this is a BIG DEAL that they aren't amazing at math.  I can't tell you how many adults have said to me as they saw me knitting or sewing or doing something like that, "I have a relative that can do that, but I've heard it's really hard and I could never learn to do that."  That's so sad to me!  I grew up in a way that said, "If you want to learn a thing than you can learn it!" 
The 8 year old making beeswax models of characters from a cartoon.

My eight year old who was supposed to be "well rounded" at her young age can do some things that most adults can't do!  Even what some adults say they could "never learn how to do."  That is a big deal.  It is.

And yet I constantly feel the pressure to do more. To force certain areas of learning that my children aren't ready for just because that's what "everyone else" values.

I often sound brave, but I'm really not.  I talk this way because I'm trying to be brave even though I don't feel it often.  I usually feel like I'm not doing enough for my kids.  I can't seem to rest in the season that I'm in and trust that whatever seeds I'm planting in their life will grow in them if God wills it.  Respecting them as people and trusting them with what they are ready for and capable of and especially trusting God with the present moment and the future.

I read recently that it takes 5 positive things to counteract a negative thing, and my personality is such that I naturally need a lot of encouragement to know that what I do is valuable.  It's difficult to be in a culture that doesn't value the job of a mother who stays at home with her children.  It's even more difficult to hear strangers questioning my intelligence (yes, one actually asked me if I was smart enough to educate my children.)  While I can easily argue against these people I still feel the negativity and it still hurts.  I have enough fears and concerns and berate myself far too much than is healthy all by myself without help from perfect strangers.

I guess the fact that I continue to do what I believe is best for my  kids says a lot for my bravery.  I haven't changed what we do to please anyone else, but I often long for encouragement or (perhaps more so) to be left in privacy.  To not be in a place where a stranger walks up to my three year old who is playing happily in our "back yard area" where I can hear her and tell her to "go back to your Mom" as if I'm neglecting my child and didn't know she was out there.  I purposefully allow my children to climb a tree if they are able to (the rule is to not break branches or damage the tree) and it bothers me when strangers who don't know their abilities try to tell them what they should or shouldn't do.  They make me feel like I'm neglecting my kids when I am actually desiring to foster their creativity and natural curiosity.  I want them to take small risks at a young age so that they can have the confidence to take greater risks when they grow older.  If that means that they need to concur their fear of heights by climbing higher in a tree then I'm all for it!  In many ways it would be easier to have more structure in our days.  I write about the school we do mainly because I want to see it all in one place.  It's hard to remember what we did a week ago or see their growth from month to month if I look too closely at each day and don't try to assemble a bigger picture, but all of the in between things are valuable too.

Being bored is valuable because they can learn to think of what to do.  Being allowed to do nothing and just think is valuable as well (how many adults feel comfortable in silence with their own thoughts?) Making mistakes is valuable too, and how much better is it to make small mistakes at a young age rather than big mistakes when you are older?

Okay, so here's my pep talk to myself and to anyone else who needs encouragement right now.  It's time to rest in where we are.  This past week we've been raising caterpillars and perhaps the hardest times were those when the caterpillars would hold very still and not eat (they were molting)--- they needed to be left alone to do what they needed to do.  The pupa (chrysalis) stage was also hard because we couldn't see any change outwardly.  Are they okay?  Are they growing?  We could only wait and see.  One looks slightly injured and I don't know if it will make it, but I can't do anything and constantly checking on it does nothing helpful.

No matter what schooling choice we've made for our kids I want to encourage other mom's (as well as myself) to trust their kids and respect them as people.  Don't coerce them into good behavior at every moment (that's not truly being "good" is it, if it's forced?)  Trust them to know themselves well enough to have some idea about what they are interested in and what they might be good at.  Encourage their skills and good qualities.  Savor the snuggle moments and overly talkative moments even at inconvenient times.
The almost 3 year old holding one of the butterflies that we released this week.

We are living life together.  We model what it means to be an adult to our children.  Are we teaching them that every human is valuable and should be respected?  Are their emotions bothersome to us or do we take the time to listen to their problems?
The middle one (6) playing "butterfly" outside with her sisters.  She was a Luna moth she said and only came out at night, so they took turns saying when it was day or night so they could fly.

I keep needing to tell myself that how I listen to my kids and how I talk to them and how I take the time to snuggle and read with them before bed even when I'd rather be asleep is valuable.

Parenting and teaching shouldn't be about making our children "well rounded" but to nurture their God given gifts and talents.  Prepare them for life as best as we can, yes, but especially to enjoy this short time that we have with them as parent and child before they are grown up and gone from us.

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