The Slow and Steady Homeschool

Modern parenting seems to be a frantic race to get ahead, to be gifted, or to outperform all others. While we may hate the race, we simultaneously worry that our children will be left and never achieve success if we don't opt out of the race.

Homeschoolers fall victim to this type of thinking just like everyone else. We worry about what preschool curriculum to purchase for our 18-month-old or wonder if our four-year-old is dyslexic since they reverse some letters. (An 18-month-old doesn't need a curriculum, and letter reversals are normal when children are first learning the alphabet.)

We forget that childhood isn't a race. The child who reads at four won't necessarily have a better life than the child who reads at 8, or even at 10.

It’s Okay to be Slow and Steady

The fable of the tortoise and the hare is a common childhood story we use to illustrate the downside of pride. The hare was just too prideful: losing to the tortoise brought him down a notch or two. If he had been a little less full of himself, he would have beaten the tortoise as expected.

But see, there is the problem. We amplify the faults of the hare and diminish the positive traits of the tortoise.

The tortoise didn't stop, even though no one expected him to win.

Perhaps we don't have as much faith in the slow and steady journey as we like to proclaim.

Growing Slowly is Not Standing Still

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still. ~ Chinese Proverb

When I read this Chinese proverb, I was struck by the words growing slowly. Our world doesn't admire slow growth. We like overnight successes. We herald instant gratification and exalt innate talents.

The Slow and Steady Homeschool

We don't want to hear about the child who labored for years to achieve a skill; we want to pass around the stories of the prodigies and geniuses.

Perhaps, we need to embrace the idea of slow growth instead of assuming faster is better.

Children Grow at Different Paces

Parents are indoctrinated into the average mindset early. We don't even leave the hospital without being given a chart showing our newborn's percentile ranking in height and weight along with their Apgar score. They've only taken a few breaths and they're already being compared to other newborns.

It continues checkup after checkup. Their ranking is recorded, and we're questioned about their milestones.

  • Are they keeping up?
  • Are they behind?

Deep down, we kind of know this is all for show. Children are going to progress at their own rate. They may walk at 11 months or not until they're 18 months. In the grand scheme of life, it makes little difference.

But What if We're Wrong

However, there are days we worry they're woefully behind.

My oldest didn't say a word until she was just over two years old. We tried and tried to get her to speak. We were questioned at every well-child visit about her language development. I tried not to worry, but deep down I did.

Why wasn't she attempting to talk? What was I doing wrong?  Miraculously, it seemed, she began to speak in complete sentences. For her, speaking didn't need to be an incremental progression.

Looking back, I realize it was her perfectionist tendencies that kept her silent. She just wasn't going to speak until she was confident in her abilities. And that is okay.

Slow Progression Can Make Large Gains

Think about when you go to a family reunion and someone exclaims how much your child has grown. Maybe they haven't seen you in a year, and the difference to them is huge.

But you're the homeschool mom who sees this child every day. Yes, they've grown, but it isn't as abrupt to you because you've seen the slow progression. Day to day, the differences are small, but when added up over a year, they are enormous.

We need to keep this truth of slow progress in mind as we homeschool. The day-to-day challenges of reading, writing, and math, can seem daunting. The progress seems slow, and we just want them to get it already.

However, their daily slow progress is better than standing still, and at some point, we will look back and marvel at how far they've come.

About the Author

Bethany Ishee

Bethany is the mom of six always homeschooled children who one day realized she'd lost herself in the process, probably under a pile of laundry. Her eclectic style of relaxed homeschooling draws upon classical to unschooling methods and everything in between.

While homeschooling her children, teaching at a Project Based Co-op, and writing about learning outside of school, she still tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills. Read more from Bethany on her site Real inspiration for the authentic mom.


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