Teaching your kids is a big responsibility, but you don’t have to let the
fear of failure keep you from doing it well. Hear guidance from HSLDA blogger Jessica
Cole—on today’s Homeschool Heartbeat with your host Mike
Mike Smith: My guest today is Jessica Cole. She’s a
homeschooling mom and a guest author on the HSLDA blog. Jessica, welcome to the
Jessica: Hi, Mike, thanks for having me.
You don’t have to panic [0:27]
Mike: Oh, you’re welcome. Tell us a bit about your
homeschooling journey. Why did you decide to start homeschooling and how did you get
Jessica: Well, in my case, homeschooling was a pretty natural
choice. I had Mike and Vicki Farris as my parents, and being taught at home myself
you could say that I was a little biased toward homeschooling from the beginning. But
even as I got older and got married and started having kids, I really did see for
myself why it’s a great choice and why I wanted it for my own kids.
That’s not to say the choice was entirely easy. To be honest, as my oldest
daughter got closer and closer to school age I kind of started to panic, because
I’m not naturally a very organized person and, well, I had days where I was
excited about starting. I also had days where I was pretty convinced I was completely
going to mess things up. But as with a lot of things in life you just have to start
by putting one foot in front of the other, so that’s what I did and it’s
going well so far.
Mike: Well that’s great advice. Now as a homeschool
graduate yourself, what are some your biggest surprises as you homeschool your own
Jessica: I think the biggest surprise was just realizing how much
hard work goes into teaching. You know, as a kid you don’t really stop and
think about all the time your parents put into it, for planning out your curriculum
and then teaching you, correcting your work and then doing the same thing for all
your siblings and then taking care of all their other responsibilities.
Basically, parenting in general is a lot harder than my parents made it look. But
on the hard days, I’m so thankful I can look back at their example and see that
their patience and perseverance paid off in the end.
Shake it off [1:48]
Mike: In one of your blog posts you
encourage parents to recognize that failure is natural part of learning. Why is
this so important?
Jessica: I think this is an important concept for adults and
children alike, especially for those of us who tend to be perfectionists. Nobody
likes to make mistakes, but we have to recognize that every new challenge is going to
come with some level of failure. You’re not going to learn to walk without
falling down sometimes, you’re not going to learn to ride a horse without
falling off sometimes. So of course you’re not going to learn math or spelling
or any other subject without some mistakes.
We might avoid failure more often if we stay inside our comfort zone all the time,
but that’s not how we learn and how we grow.
Mike: So Jessica, how do you combat perfectionism in your own
approach to homeschooling?
Jessica: Well, first I have to remember not to be too much of a
perfectionist myself. I often get intimidated by new challenges and just want to stay
in my comfort zone where I can be safe from embarrassing myself, but I know I need to
be bold enough to tackle these challenges instead of hiding from them. I’m
setting the example for my kids, after all, and I want them to be able to grow and
learn to be more confident.
And when I make mistakes I need to be better about shaking it off and keeping on
going. In my post I used the example of learning to ride a horse, and no matter how
many times you fall off you just have to keep getting back on and trying again. So
when my kids have these issues dealing with perfectionism in their schooling I just
try to encourage them as best I can with the same things I often have to tell
You’re doing something right [3:13]
Mike: Jessica, you clearly enjoy homeschooling but you’ve
also talked about the challenges it presents, and I’m sure many of our
listeners can relate to that. What advice or encouragement do you have for
homeschooling parents that are facing these challenges?
Jessica: You know, I think many of us may have pretty idealistic
notions of what it means to be a homeschool parent. I know I do anyway. I tell myself
that a good homeschool mom would be able to get her kids through all their schoolwork
in the morning, then get the house sparkling clean, serve a gourmet meal for supper,
get the kids to bed early, and finish up the day by sewing a quilt. But, of course,
my day looks more like me running around like a chicken with his head cut off and
just being thankful that nobody died.
I definitely don’t have it all together, and while I want to keep improving,
it does encourage me to know that I’m not alone. That’s why I’m
really enjoying participating in the
HSLDA blog. I can hear from other homeschooling parents about their challenges
and how they’re working on them or what they’ve learned, and it allows me
to share the same.
So for those facing challenges I would just start by saying that you’re not
alone. Next I would say that instead of focusing on the challenges or getting down on
yourself, try to focus on the positive. Even in the times where is seems that
everything is going wrong, there is always something that is going right. And while
you may not be doing so great in one area you’re probably really strong in
another area that you may not even realize. None of us have it all together but we
all have gifts we can use and wisdom we can share with others.
Where’s the growth? [4:41]
Mike: You’ve compared parenting to
planting seeds in a garden. Now what do you mean by that?
Jessica: Well, this thought struck me as I was planting our
little garden this year. My husband had spent hours prepping the soil and then I
spent hours making little rows and planting the little seeds. I got done and I
thought, “Okay, now it’s time to see some growth.” And then it hit
me that I wouldn’t see anything for another week or two at least.
Parenting is a lot like that: you can put a lot of effort into it and it may seem
like nothing is really happening for a while. You may get discouraged or think
you’re doing something wrong, but most things don’t just happen
overnight. And even though it may look like nothing is happening, there may be more
going on under the surface than we realize.
Mike: Well, can you give us some examples of that from your own
Jessica: The example that sticks out most to me is working
through my youngest daughter’s severe separation anxiety. She had a pretty
intensive surgery as an infant and I think like many kids who go through this, she
developed a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder and she would essentially go
into hysterics any time I left her sight.
We tried working with her but it was slow-going and it was really tiring and
discouraging to feel like we weren’t making much progress. It took a lot of
patience and hard work, but eventually we were able to see the results and now
it’s hard to remember what it was like before.
Mike: Well, Jessica, I think we all agree that patience is such
an important part of being a parent, I mean, you have to have it right?
Harnessing your curiosity [6:06]
Mike: Jessica, you’ve told us about some of the challenges
you’ve faced with homeschooling, now tell us what you’ve enjoyed the most
Jessica: I think what I’ve enjoyed most about homeschooling
is that I get to be the one to introduce my kids to all sorts of new things. Of
course, most of them are not new to me, but it’s always fun to watch my kids
discover new things and watch their interests blossom. I wouldn’t normally slow
down and figure out what type of cloud that is overhead or watch a bee collecting
nectar, but when I’m with my kids discovering this for the first time,
it’s new and it’s exciting and seeing them get excited helps me
appreciate it more too.
I also get to share things with them that I find really interesting and
that’s always fun to watch them get excited about those with me.
Mike: Jessica, what advice do you have for our listeners who are
thinking about homeschooling or are just starting to homeschool?
Jessica: I think my advice would be not to let the idea of
teaching your kids intimidate you; after all, as a parent, you’ve been teaching
your child new things since birth, so this isn’t really that different.
And as much as we can stress out about making sure they get good grades, I really
don’t think that’s the most important thing, especially in the early
elementary years. I think sometimes we burn our kids out when we try to drill a bunch
of facts into them, but when we foster a thirst for learning, that’s when they
really take off. So watch for their interests and capitalize on those.
Of course, they won’t like everything and they don’t have to, but one
of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can tailor the focus of the teaching to
fit the child and help to keep them more interested. Children are naturally curious
and I think they learn best when we’re really developing and channeling that
Mike: Thank you for those insights, Jessica, and thanks for
joining us this week. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the program and until
next time, I’m Mike Smith.