[The mother] must brace herself to see her child suffer present loss for his lasting gain.
–Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, p. 148)
I have already written about the fact that homeschooling requires doing hard things. Homeschooling includes meltdowns and messes and how we handle those things is the curriculum. Sometimes our children aren’t going to like the things we assign to them, but we need to assign them anyway.
What I haven’t yet said, but which I think is an important piece of this discussion, is that tastes change.
One of my daughters began the school year with a serious dislike for a couple of her books. I’m not going to name them because I don’t want any personal thoughts anyone may have about the specific titles to cloud the discussion of the principles that come into play here — sometimes we lose the proverbial forest for the trees (we lose the overarching principles because Details).
We can, however, talk about why she didn’t like the books. One of them was on a topic that she really isn’t interested in — or maybe I should say she didn’t realize she was interested in. Another one was a tad too difficult for her to read on her own.
Naturally, there were two different solutions for these two different problems. For the former, I shrugged my shoulders and told her to read it anyhow. For the latter, I am reading it aloud until we reach the point where I know the book gets more interesting and I think she might be able to read it on her own.
With the one I’m reading aloud, it seems to be slowly growing on her. I mean, if you asked her if she liked it, she would probably tell you no (but she would also say “nothing” if you asked her what she did for school today). But she’s shown many signs of interest — she has asked questions about what is happening in the story, and wondered aloud why certain characters didn’t appear in a chapter.
It’s a tough book, yes. But, truth be told, reading levels only rise by reading tough books. It’s like how muscles only get stronger by lifting things that are heavier than we’d prefer. A hard fought victory through a difficult book is an important part of learning at any age.
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that books teach you how to read them. The first chapter may be difficult, the next one a tiny bit easier, until suddenly you are halfway through and it’s not nearly so bad as it was at first.
With the book she’s reading on her own, it’s been a bit of a different story. One subject was a little interesting, so the book wasn’t so bad. A little later, and she was back to not being interested. Then, last week, there was a part that really caught her attention. “I guess this book isn’t so bad,” she said.
That’s right. A book she thought she hated is growing on her.
Guess what? Tastes can be acquired through repeated exposure.
Children have a lot of emotions, and some children have more than others. This little girl of mine, she can be a roller-coaster when it comes to her school books.
Why in the world would I let her emotional roller-coaster dictate my curriculum choices?
As her mother, my job is to stabilize her. To teach her to persevere. To communicate that I know she can do it … and then to do all that I can to help her succeed.
No, it’s not always easy. I know it. And I’m not saying to never change a book out.
But I am asking why, three or four weeks into school, are we tempted to drop a book?
If it’s because it’s obvious the child is in way over his head, well then fine. We made a mistake in the assignments. But if it’s just because little Sally is throwing a tantrum about a book that is hard, but not too hard, or not on her favorite subject, and she only wants her favorite subject, well then, let’s think about what kind of character that is building.
Ideas have consequences, after all.
Am I teaching her to quit when things get hard? Because heaven knows how I felt about motherhood at times in the early days. How I would have loved to have thrown in the towel! Is that what I want? A daughter who gives up?
Frankly, I want my daughters to have a fighting spirit. My sons, too, but with them I worry much less because, if you have boys, then you know it’s often inborn.
It’s a tough world. They are going to have to make hard choices, keep going when they want to stop, persevere when no one else will, stand when they’d rather sit, stay awake when they’d rather sleep, and think before they act when they would rather be slaves to their passions.
Our school lessons? Our home? It’s a training ground.
I don’t ask them to do hard things all day long, no. But I ask them to do hard things some of the time, and I’m not going to apologize for that. You see, I’m the adult in the room. I can be an immovable oaken door, rather than shaken by their childish emotional outbursts.
So my advice? Don’t drop the book.
Instead, help them.
You’ll be glad you did.
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.