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Is it Important for Children to Stay On Track?

I recently surveyed all of the parents on our Learnwell email list. One of the questions I was most excited to learn the answer to was, “What is your biggest homeschooling challenge?”

And the number one answer, by far?

“Not knowing if I’m getting it right and if my children are staying on track.”

Mind you, these are mostly parents of elementary-aged children. So the first thing I want to say to you is this:

Children develop at different rates.

This is real, my friends. I know it doesn’t feel great if your kid is the one at the end of the average, but there’s not a whole lot you can do to change that.

What I would never want for you is to bang your head against a brick wall, impacting your relationship with your child, trying to get your late reader to READ ALREADY or your fidgety son to stay. still. for. a. second while you feel the adrenaline slowly creep through your system.

Because you know what? They are going to get it when they get it.

My daughter Grace took her sweet time walking when she was a baby. She was ready when she was ready (15 months or so, by the way). It didn’t matter how many developmental milestones I checked. It didn’t matter how often my husband and I would stand 10 feet apart and say, “Go see Daddy!” and “Go to Mommy!”

She was going to walk when she was ready to walk. Thankfully, she was too young for me to scar her by trying some well-reasoned cajoling: “Grace, why don’t you want to walk? Mommy wants you to walk! Don’t you see how much faster and easier you’d get around if you walk? Let’s read a story about how great it is to walk!”

How many stories have you read or heard about successful adults who didn’t read until they were 10? Or who failed math in 4th grade, and are now successful physicists?

I’m pretty sure I know dozens off the top of my head.

One of the things I am most concerned about as an educator is what the child thinks about him/herself as a learner. I wish God hadn’t made us this way, but it turns out, what we think about ourselves has power.

We tend to rise to the level of what we believe we can do.

So if Grace had been older and I had tried to reason with her about this whole idea of walking, she might have begun to believe, ‘I’m not good at moving my body,’ or ‘I’m not as good at the important things as other babies my age,’ or even, ‘Mommy is so disappointed with me and how I am.’

OK, I know the walking example is a little silly. But it comes to my mind because I truly began to get a little worried, even while I was breezily saying to everyone else, “She’ll walk when she’s ready! No big deal!”

I wonder if there is one area – or maybe there are two or three areas – in which you are worrying about your child. Perhaps he or she is falling short in a comparison with their siblings. (I’m not going to lecture you about comparing – siblings are our most-accessible source of information about how a child is doing, even when we know we shouldn’t compare!) Perhaps if you’re serving on the field, your child seems “behind” the other kids on your team.

I know this issue is complicated because we want to know if there’s really anything WRONG or different with our child for which we might legitimately need to find some help. I am a former special education teacher, so I understand the value of early diagnoses.

But today, just today, I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and remember how very wonderfully your child is made.

I want to remind you that most likely, you will be able to laugh when you remember how worried you were, because your child grew up to be an avid reader or professor or, in my case, is a pretty awesome 9-year-old ballerina who uses her legs just fine, thank you very much.

Just for today, I’d like to encourage you to meet your child where he or she is. As a parent, you might feel like you are constantly throwing them a rope to pull them to shore. Understandably, you want your child to read, do math, sit still, or whatever it is you’re worried about, and you are desperately trying to find the right resource, workbook, teaching method, or whatever else it takes to get them there.

But just for today, instead of pulling them in, swim out to where they are and enjoy splashing around. Look at your child and remind yourself, “This child was made by God on purpose, with purpose, exactly as they are.” Be with them.

The more you do this, the message your child will begin to believe is, “I am someone who is lovable, who my mom/dad wants to spend time with, and who is really great at splashing around out here!”

I’ll write more about the nuts and bolts of our children being on track. But nothing else I can say is as important as reminding you that each child comes with an individual timeline for their learning and development.

Enjoy your day with your kids today!

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