What I’ve discovered as she’s gotten older and we’ve added more children to our family, though, is that I prefer the lazy approach to parenting, which is following my girls’ lead and (often) waiting until they’re older to teach those skills. Time and time again I find myself starting something only to realize that it’s too much of a struggle to continue, and when I pick it up again later, the skill comes so much easier.
Over time, we’ve seen this play out again and again, and it’s become an important part of our parenting philosophy. For example:
- Although girls are notoriously easier to potty train than boys, my last two daughters have both potty trained at 3 years old. Because we wait, we have minimal accidents, offer fewer incentives and do almost nothing other than empty out the potty for them when they’re done (they’re short, and it’s scary to start on the big potty, although they both outgrew the need for the training potty fairly quickly).
- My oldest has been reading for about a year, but we often set aside formal lessons, and when we pick them back up, I’m always amazed by the progress she has made in the meantime. When we’re not doing formal lessons, she spends her afternoon quiet times writing books, copying words from her favorite books and illustrating stories.
- I’ve felt guilty for the last year or so that I hadn’t made time to teach our six-year-old to tie her shoes, but when we got her a new pair of tennis shoes recently, she took the initiative to ask me to show her, and she had it mastered in about 20 minutes.
A trap that I think we often fall into with our firstborn children is always looking ahead to the next stage and trying to move forward too quickly, but time and time again I’ve seen how quickly they learn to do something if I just wait until the timing is right. I’m thankful for the experienced homeschool moms on the Sonlight Forums who stressed this philosophy in many of their conversations when I was just a new mom hanging out there to learn as much about homeschooling as I could. Because of their influence, it was easy for me to embrace this philosophy as my own rather than trying to stick with my early-is-always-better pipe dream.
On the other side of the spectrum, I fully believe that our children are capable of more than we give them credit for. For example, we memorize a huge amount of information each week through the Classical Conversations program — things like the 8 parts of speech, the 7 types of biomes, Latin verb conjugation and events on the world timeline. The Montessori influence in my life also means that they have daily chores, offered lots of opportunity to learn about topics that might otherwise be saved until later and are trusted with things like glass and other fragile objects.
I think the reason these things fit with my better-late-than-early philosophy is I don’t always expect them to master things right away; I just introduce a new concept and follow their lead.
So I guess you could say my educational philosophy — like most things in my life — is an eclectic mix. Rather than choose just one label, I’d define it as a mixture of better-late-than-early, early academics and child-led learning.
Whether you homeschool or your children attend school, how would you describe your educational philosophy?