Isn't it amazing that our children remind us of ourselves or our spouse? I don't know about you, but there are times when I just know what my son or daughter is thinking and can almost predict what they are going to do...because if I was in their situation, I would do the same thing.
Then there are other children (and I have one of them) who is so completely different that we scratch our heads and wonder, "Whose kid is that anyways?"
The fact is, whether our kids are like us or not, they are not miniature versions of us. We may share some common characteristics with them, but they are not us. And we are not them. And if you have more than one child, you will find that they are not like their siblings either. Each one is unique.
So how in the world does a mom teach a child that is not like her?
Before I dive in too far, I want to recommend a book: Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling by Diana Waring, particularly chapters 6 and 7. In her funny and zany way, Mrs. Waring shares her insights, mishaps and experience about how to incorporate various learning styles---both in the kids and in the moms---and work with them instead of fighting them. It's a great read and a good shot in the arm if you know that you have just taken on the assignment of teaching a child that is very different than you.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Remember who they belong to.
Look at them with the Father’s eyes.They have been uniquely designed and created by a God who loves them very much and has built them according to His specifications. And He makes no mistakes...even if we sometimes wonder.
2. Pray over your kids.
Bringing ourselves before the throne of God on behalf of our kids is one of the greatest things we can do for them. If He has made them and they belong to Him, wouldn't it make sense to ask Him what He wants to do with them? I have learned to take a step back and ask. What He has shown me sometimes surprises me!
3. Recognize that there are different ways of learning.
This is true for both you and for your kids. Some moms may prefer textbooks, but their kids need hands-on experiences or need to talk it out (or vice versa!). You may have already learned about the different modalities of learning such as kinesthetic, visual, or auditory. Did you know that there may also be different intelligences as well? Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified what he calls seven different learning intelligences. Just because a child isn't sitting down with a textbook doesn't mean he or she isn't learning. Creating a song about the topic of study (for musical children) or debating a topic (for linguistic children) or using art materials to create (for artistic children) can all be equally valid ways of learning.
Personally, I am not a hands-on learner. I am a chart maker, book reader, and note taker. I am not into the creative musical and artistic expressions. But some of my kids are. So what do you do? I have found that by choosing good books in a variety of forms (e.g. non-fiction, historical fiction, biographical, etc.) and then incorporating an activity that fits that particular child best usually has a good combination. I'm happy, they're happy, and we both learn together.
4. Realize that there are some things that are important to learn but not fun.
Math facts and phonics come to mind. Learning how to identify the main idea or writing a coherent paragraph come a close second. Some things are not fun to learn, but that's a fact of life. However, that doesn't mean we don't learn them. Nowadays, you can probably Google a bazillion ideas to help you. I make it as fun as I can, but don't feel bad if they don't just love the lesson. Call me a mean mom, but hey, I've got to be realistic here.
5. Study and observe your kids.
This goes along with the other points. What kind of learning styles do you and your child tend toward? What things just make your child (or you) cry? What things do you really look forward to? Using what you learn, choose a curriculum that best fits your child. Start with what you observe first, and have a back-up option if it doesn’t work, using another style. I like to utilize samples if possible before committing to a curriculum. And remember: Sometimes expensive or popular isn’t always the best for your child.
6. Introduce your kids to the things that you love.
If you love Shakespeare or enjoy messing around with clay or are curious about how a vacuum cleaner works, bring your kids in with you. As parents, it's okay to share your interests with your kids, provided that you give them permission not to like it as much as you do. Just know when to stop and honor those differences. But don't be afraid to share them with your kids. I love to cook, but not all of my kids do. I simply invite them to help until they've had enough and then let them go. A little is better than nothing!
7. Be willing to sacrifice and step out of your comfort zone, but also know when a curriculum is just not working, no matter how great it is.
On the flip side, expect to find yourself doing things you would never think you'd do. I have found myself at Civil War enactments and putting up hair in a bun for a ballet recital. Totally not me. But that's part of what homeschooling is...being willing to stretch with where your child is. Sometimes it as just simply providing them with the tools they need to explore on their own.
Well that's a start there. I haven't even gotten into how to manage kids of different ages (that's coming in another post) or the differences between boys and girls (I'll have to schedule that in someday!). But I hope this gives you some starting points as you choose and plan for your children. Most of all, have fun...and celebrate and enjoy those things that make you and your children unique.