Division had become my mortal enemy. I mean I hated it to the point most days when we finished math, I was either ready to burst into tears or to beat my head against a very hard surface. No matter how many times I explained division – once, twice, 27 times — it didn’t matter. My daughter just could not grasp the concept of dividing one number by another.
And though I’ve been in this place before, (my daughter is dyslexic, after all) I still found myself worrying.
What if she never gets this? What if she never manages to advance beyond multiplication? How will we ever make it through high school? Can a person function in the real world without knowing how to divide?
I know I was overreacting. Sometimes panic sets in, and I start talking out of my head when I’m panicked.
But there are things your kids are expected to learn, and when you don’t see it happening, it’s cause for concern, especially as a homeschooling mom! I mean, I don’t have the option of blaming the teacher, the other students from bad homes, or the broken school system. Whether it’s always fair or not, when a homeschooled kid doesn’t learn all the things she’s supposed to learn, the blame usually falls on the mom.
And so we obsess over things like division and grammar and the laws of physics and the details of the Bolshevik revolution, desperately hoping our kids can learn everything they are expected to learn, whether those things are actually imperative to their future or not.
And yet the longer I do this, particularly the more often I find myself homeschooling through difficult circumstances or serious family challenges, the more I realize that the most important lessons my kids will learn from me have nothing to do with math or science or language arts.
We know that, I think. We know there are things more essential to our children’s future than knowing the anatomy of a frog or memorizing the periodic table. And yet sometimes we need a good reminding that, even in the midst of those discouraging struggles with math concepts or proper sentence structure, our children can still be learning life’s most important lesson.
It takes me back 30 years to my own childhood and a mom who was dying of cancer. She was sick for the better part of my formative years, hardly in any condition to do much teaching, and yet what incredible lessons I learned from her!
I watched her face hopeless diagnoses with courage. I witnessed her handle sharp physical decline with dignity. I observed her interacting with people who meant well, but who said silly things, and with busybodies who insisted she was sick because she lacked faith.
There was never a moment when she sat down with me and said, “Tanya, let’s begin our lesson,” and yet I was learning from her some of the most important lessons a child can ever take away from a teacher.
Faith. Character. Integrity. Moral courage. More than spelling rules or the Pythagorean theorem, these were the lessons I needed most.
What lessons are your kids most in need of? Could they be ones like these?
- The dog got in the grumpy neighbor’s garden. Again. How do you respond to the man’s angry outburst?
- Your sister-in-law has nothing but criticism for your decision to homeschool. How do you handle her constant jabs?
- A financial crisis has come out of nowhere. What do you do?
- Some fellow Christians have behaved in a less than Christ-like manner. How do you deal with it?
- A situation arises in which your honesty could cost you a fortune. What decision will you make?
- A single phone call about a family tragedy turns your world upside-down. What is your reaction?
Our kids are watching, and most days they are probably learning more than would really make us comfortable. But the lessons are more valuable and needful than anything from a textbook.
Not to say we always handle these situations the right way! Far from it, I’m afraid. And yet even in our failures we have an opportunity to teach. Our kids observe and respect our sincere apologies and our repentance. They take note of the times we can admit we were wrong, and they will take to heart our confessions of weakness and our humble admissions of guilt. Often I believe they will respect us more for owning up to our mistakes than for our trying to pretend we don’t make them.
It’s not that spelling or Latin roots or algebra don’t matter. They do. It’s just that some things matter more. And sometimes I think we’re so obsessed with the things we think our kids have to know that we forget the lessons they really can’t live without. I can worry myself sick over the education I think they need, but I have to remind myself daily that homeschooling provides me a unique opportunity to ensure my kids are gaining the knowledge they need most.
Sometimes I think we’re so obsessed with the things we think our kids have to know that we forget the lessons they really can’t live without.
My daughter finally grasped division, by the way. Suddenly something clicked, and the things that had baffled her for so long began making sense. I should have known that would happen.
But I already knew the truth: My daughter could live without conquering division, but she has to know about faith and integrity and moral courage. If she doesn’t, then I have failed in my efforts to homeschool.
And so I teach math and science, language arts and history, and I do it with diligence, remembering that they need to know these things.
And yet I strive to remember the lessons that matter most, the ones I know they really can’t live without.
Have you ever found yourself obsessing over all the things your children are supposed to know? What do you do to remind yourself of the things that matter most?