How Not Teaching May Be My Greatest Homeschooling Accomplishment

The teaching thing comes fairly easily for me. I can discuss, instruct, correct (to my detriment at times) and maybe, if I’m lucky, now and again motivate.

What I can’t do so easily is back off. Not rush in to help. Let the mistake happen and the mess unfold. And, ironically, this can undermine teaching because there comes a point in teaching—in parenting—when you have to step aside. Back off. Shut up and find out what the kiddo has absorbed, discover what they can handle on their own. They either own the knowledge or they don’t. They’ve either learned the lesson or they haven’t. Maybe this whole urge to rush in and fix mentality has never been a problem for you, but I beg you a little grace because it has been for me. It’s tough to discern when to let your kids figure it out and when to teach them how to figure it out. Both ends of the spectrum are treacherous; you gotta let the little tyke learn the law of gravity by falling on his rump but you don’t teach him not to touch the stove by burning himself.

This first year of homeschooling has been good. And hard. Fun. And grueling. Inspiring and exasperating and rewarding and thankless and relaxing and busy…

We had deep discussions, satisfying Aha moments, and crazy fun field trips. We also had several days when one of us would call up a friend and beg for a play date so we could get away from each other and decompress.

Last week she wanted to make brownies, all on her own, without an ounce of help from start to finish. So I vowed to not butt in. I didn’t implement a repeat math lesson about quarter, thirds, and wholes when she measured. I didn’t tell her to keep stirring or to stop stirring. I didn’t remind her to preheat the oven. I didn’t teach her how to clean up the egg—double yoked no less—that smattered on the floor. She and the dog figured it out all on their own. The worst thing that could happen, I kept reminding myself, is that the brownies would suck and I could live with that. (For the record, they were scrumptious.)

Clean up was less than ideal but nothing is perfect. Not homeschooling or public school or private school or moms or teachers or kids. Thankfully, good doesn’t have to be perfect.

Years ago, when she “helped” by adding a few of her own eggs.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. abigail says:

    Beautiful. Brava to you and Maylie.
    Forgotten baseball cups and caps and math books beg the question:
    How much to pick up after?
    I suppose, we, Godlike, step in sometimes and let it lie others.
    Implicit instruction.

  2. edenborgk says:

    I can relate to this. The struggles and frustrations and bad outcomes often teach just as much as the perfect ones, sometimes even more. One of my constant thoughts is to get students (kids too : ) to think about the process more than the product. The reflection piece is huge.

  3. Chery says:

    How she has grown….from adding a few eggs to doing it all on her own. You had to provide the experience for her to grow and you did!

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