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Friday, April 25, 2014

On finding the right level of challenge

The number one challenge to raising kids (whether you are homeschooling them or not)…and no, it’s not not losing your mind…very well may be finding the right balance…

Too much or too little of something, anything, and we get sick.  All people (even little ones) need physical, mental, and emotional balance.

We know that if we eat too much, we will die.  If we eat too little, we will still die (or ate least fail the thrive).

If we continue to spoon-feed our kids when they are capable of feeding themselves, we rob them of growing into independence, and yet if we expect them to feed themselves on their own before they are developmentally ready, they may not get the nutrition they need to grow.

We need just enough and not too much of the good things in life. 

Of course there isn’t an exact formula for how much any particular person needs, and each individual’s unique balance will be a little different. 

One child will need more calories, another will need more physical activity, another will be allergic to something that’s healthy and wholesome for most people…

This is true in learning, too. 

If we only give our kids easily achievable goals, we are cheating them out of the opportunity to fail. 

Failure is important! 

It can foster perseverance and humility, as well as point us in the right direction for the next attempt at success.  We can learn from our failures, perhaps much more than we can learn from our successes.

But there’s that balance thing.

If we give our kids things they cannot achieve (or are very unlikely to achieve), over and over, they may decide that learning is too hard and the rewards aren’t worth their investment of time and energy.

They may give up.

Finding the right level of challenge for our kids at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

You need balance.

As a parent, I don’t really want to see my kids struggle.  I want my kids to succeed.  But there’s a paradox there---struggling ultimately leads to personal success.  When we struggle, we are given the opportunity to grow.

I have seen criticisms of homeschooling centering not around socialization issues or because homeschool kids might be outside of the mainstream or may miss out on academic opportunities…

…but because of the big question:  do parents have the ability to find that balance?

Will they push their kids when it is needed?

Will they stretch them beyond their comfort zone so they can grow to reach their full potential?

Or will they make a safe haven for their children to hide away from the hard parts of life? 

Will they let them get by?  Or will they push them to blossom into all they can be?

These are valid concerns, and yet they are not unique to homeschooling.  The difference is that some of the external pressures may be lessened through home education, which puts more of the onus on the parent.

Ironically, with more direct access to our kids, the reverse is also true---we have a unique opportunity to push them more.  That can be a good thing, but it can also backfire.

Right now I’m thinking about what our future studies will look like and I’m puzzling a bit over how to maintain that balance. 

It’s different for each kid! 

And sometimes it varies depending upon what day it is (if you have any kid with special needs, you know what I’m talking about).

How do you balance stretching your kids with giving them the support they need?

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