In my 18 years of mothering six children, I’ve witnessed many milestones— too many to count, really. I’ve also spent a lot of those years in anticipation, waiting for my kids to get over the next hurdle. I’d often ask questions like, “When should my child be able to read?” Or, “When will he finally potty train?”. Everyday I would, impatiently, look on to the future— hoping today would be THE day! But many times it wasn’t, and my cycle of waiting and watching and worrying would go on. Finally, just as they always do, my babies would “get it!”. But all that reached milestone did was bring me back to the checklist and on to my next mommy mission!
Does this sound familiar? I wonder, how many years I’ve spent in this painstaking cycle?
The day my two year old potty-trained himself.
This week my two year old potty trained himself! He’s the second Modlin baby to do this. My first daughter, Briella, did the same thing five years ago. I’ll often tell people how Briella just woke up one morning and was done with the diapers—how it must be that girls catch on to potty training much easier than boys. I had three boys prior to a girl joining our tribe, so it made sense. But now, our fourth son wokeup one morning and is, also, “done with diapers”… Just like that, my last two kids checked that box off for me, and all I did was purchase a potty from Aldi for 2.99, placed it next to the “big boy toilet”, and watched the magic happen.
So, what changed? Why do I have memories of a time where I lived in potty training hell? Were my last two smarter than my first three, or was their momma finally getting it?
It’s obvious, I’m a slow learner.
And then the reading lightbulb came on…
Today, the same daughter that potty trained herself, just five short years ago, learned to read! I mean, for years she was sounding out words and short sentences, but now she’s a fluent reader! I wish I could tell you our literacy journey looked the way our potty training did—that I purchased some games, books, crayons, threw them on a table and patiently waited for her skills to meet her capacity… But I didn’t! Again, slow learner here.
I pushed and worried, and some days she cried and confessed how much she disliked reading. She’s bright, eager, mature, and I couldn’t understand why, at seven, she would be my oldest child to read—
The short answer to that is, she wasn’t ready!
The Day My Daughter learned to tie her shoes in 15 minutes!!!
A few weeks ago I told Briella to fetch a wooden shoe with laces from our class. I’ve taught a couple of kids how to tie their shoes with that toy. She excitedly ran back from the room and sat next to me on the couch. I showed her once, twice, and on the third time I had her jump in. Within fifteen minutes she was tying her shoes, and before bed she was doing it with her eyes closed, literally. I quietly sat back and watched as she proudly tied the laces tight, each time a little quicker than the last. She was, obviously, ready. And this happened to be one of those skills I didn’t obsess over. To be really honest, I forgot she might want to tie her own shoes one day— thank you inventor of Velcro. It was that night I decided I would allow her to just ‘BE’. She’s always enjoyed perusing through her books — sometimes I would walk past her room and see her giggling over a Pinkalicious or marking a page that had a craft she wanted us to try in a magazine. I don’t know why that wasn’t enough to make me realize she would read when she was good and ready, it really should’ve been.
We’re Born to Learn, Not to be Taught
So, why am I sharing some of my kids’ milestones— both the good and the ‘bad’? I’m writing this in the hopes that my experiences will set you, somewhat, free. That you’ll learn, before I did, to not sweat the small stuff.
When I began homeschooling my children, I made a personal commitment; Learning would become more than just a checklist full of expectations, deadlines and hard-dates. The year prior to bringing them home was a trying one for us, and I wanted to educate my kids in a manner different from the one we were accustomed to—one that didn’t hinge my child’s abilities on dated progress. Children are innate learners but not in the way most of us think. Curiosity, creativity, imaginativeness, and a love of learning will be met with knowledge, not the other way around. All we need to do is foster their development, and create the environment. Still, it can be very difficult when we reside in a world full of open windows, ones that display reading five year olds and potty trained two year olds. And it’s become increasingly hard to allow our kids to be individuals in how and when they learn. This is why I want you to see how different ‘learning’ can look for each child, in the same house, using a different approach, but by the same parents. If there’s anything God has shown me since becoming a “home-educator” it’s that we’re born to learn, not to be taught.
They Learn When They’re Ready
So, my seven year old taught herself to potty train just as she’d turn two, but didn’t read until she was 7. She can tell you all about birth and some impressive facts on horticulture, but she isn’t very keen on language arts. She’d rather learn about embryology then who the first president was, but she can work the kitchen better than some adults I know. One of my boys, the “6th grader, isn’t excited about math and has struggled in the subject. But, he loves to research and write! Once he discovers something that interests him, he lives it! We are currently “living” Trapper Nelson’s life right alongside him— so is every person that has crossed his path in the last month. If you come over my home for a visit and he asks, “Do you have five minutes?” Be prepared. My nine year old son advised me in kindergarten that he would not be participating in arts and crafts. No coloring, painting, or cutting! That pretty much axed my first year’s lesson plans for him…But he’s shown a large interest in technology, so we invested in an online, networking class. He’s learned so much in those classes, and he’s better off with a computer at the age of nine than I’ll ever be. All of my kids from the oldest to the youngest have one obvious thing in common, they learn when they are ready!
Sometimes, after a hard day of school, I’ll jokingly tell my husband, “I’m burning all of the school books and spending my days outside with the kids.” He’ll chuckle and tell me, “Do it Jenn,”. But he knows I would never not have some form of organized schooling during our days— a little bit of lesson planning goes a long way, and it keeps me sane. Not to mention, they’re not written in concrete, or even ink for that matter. I’m not afraid to change them, and I often do. Now that I’ve gained perspective through my many years in motherhood… I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff, or what society considers, the big stuff! I’m learning to keep my kids “out of the box”! I’m learning that life is school! I’m learning to shut those windows! I’m learning because my own children, the ones that I homeschool, teach me something new, everyday!
Be free momma…
What expectation will you let go of today?
— Education is what remains, after one has forgotten what one has learned in school— Albert Einstein