Tuesday, May 6, 2014

one reason my children are "behind" in school

As a rule, if there is a conflict between academics and an emotional issue, I have personally evolved to choosing to focus on emotional issues at the expense of academics.  This means that erev Shabbos, erev Yomtov, days where we are going somewhere, or in any time crunch or emotionally fraught situation, academics take a back seat.  I've snapped at my children in those situations too many times, trying to get their work done.

Or if I planned to do academics with one child but then my 3 year old is having a tantrum and I choose to devote a half an hour to staylistening instead.  Or if my six year old starts throwing and kicking things in frustration and I sit down with him for an hour. Or if my 2 and 3 year olds were having a particularly conflict-ful morning and I find my time best devoted to hovering nearby and pulling them apart.

Or if we sit down to do math or Chumash and now that the child has my attention, she asks big questions about life or tells me the dream she had last night. And then the little ones need me, and we missed the window for focused academic work.

This results in my prioritizing other things over academics for young children in the early elementary grades.  I tend to gear towards emotional health. I figure a child who is emotionally healthy and resilient will figure out a way to learn what he or she needs to learn. But a child who has a lot of academics but lacks emotional health has a bigger handicap in terms of functioning in society, holding down a job, and having pleasant relationships.

(That aside, there is a skill of learning to plug away at work while in a bad or sad or angry mood, even though your quality of work is less efficient. We have plenty of opportunities to work on that, too.)

My children are not all grown, and a lot of how children turn out is not in human hands, anyway. But I do think a lot of homeschoolers make choices about prioritizing free play over academics. Or emotional health over academics. Or interesting experiences over academics. Or whatever your choice is over academics. As a general rule, homeschoolers are not lazy slackers. We have a lot to take care of and take into account and we are prioritizing.

I'm not saying don't worry. Worry is a great motivator for keeping us on track and for making sure that we re-evaluate and make sure our actions are in line with our values. But it's so easy to get tunnel vision and worry that we are making mistakes that will mess up our children's futures.

The truth is it is no big deal to be a few years behind. And if a child ends up matriculating, they can catch up pretty easily in a matter of months. I personally have never heard of a homeschooled child who went to school and wasn't just fine after a small adjustment period. And if you're not concerned about matriculation, but for afterwards, the statistics are that homeschooled children end up as functioning adults who are solicited by colleges and are able to contribute to the economy. So why are you so worried?

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