Teaching math and reading is important. Teaching good attitudes and right relationships is more important.
Daniel Levitin, in The Organized Mind, says this.
Of the thousands of ways that human beings differ from one another, perhaps the most important trait for getting along with others is agreeableness. In the scientific literature, to be agreeable is to be cooperative, friendly, considerate, and helpful--attributes that are more or less stable across the lifetime, and show up early in childhood. Agreeable people are able to control undesirable emotions such as anger and frustration. . . . Some of this emotional regulation can be learned--children who receive positive reinforcement for impulse control and anger management become agreeable adults. As you might imagine, being an agreeable person is a tremendous advantage for maintaining positive social relationships.(129)
I read this and was sobered for my children who tend to be less agreeable, so if your response is also taken aback . . . I am with you. We all want what is best for our children.
Thus, in my house, there have been times where most of "homeschooling" looks like "attitude adjustment." These seasons don't last for months, but they might last a couple of weeks.
During these seasons, scenes like this play out.
- "When I called you, you stomped your foot and pouted. Let's try that again." And we repeat until we have obedience. (And if there is a pause in the middle for a rest time . . . then there's a pause.)
- "You are fidgeting. I know you weren't fidgeting five minute ago when you were playing, and this seems pretty disrespectful. With so much energy to burn, please run around the house three times. When you're finished, let's see if you're ready to sit still." (This is an easy, measurable physical exertion. It interrupts the school day . . . but the fidgets had already started that interruption.)
- "That wasn't said in a nice tone. Here's how I want those words to sound." If my child imitates my voice and speech, I am socializing him so he behaves the way I want him to sound.
- "This interaction didn't go very well. Let's change the words and try again." And then role-play a better interaction.
All of these corrections take time. But if you think about it, if you spend two weeks focusing on attitude and correcting behavior, and from then on, you enjoy your children's presence more, and they get along better, that is far better for your family than if you had finished another Read-Aloud and two chapters in math.
Which is to say: realize that your children might have more behavioral issues than you thought. Be prepared to take the time to address their behavior in a more focused way for a period, if you need to.
There is hope. The brain is incredibly plastic (to use the scientific term): it changes according to the environment. So even if you realize that you have been lax in behavior training, after a short burst of more intense focus, your children will be behaving better and your home will be less chaotic.
I end with this bit of blazing glory from Paul's letter to the Romans: "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance."
May you have the wisdom to know what the kindness of God looks like, so that you may raise the next generation well.
More to come
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Homeschooling mom to five
P.S. And, please, remember this too: all of your children are their own people. They all make their own choices. I assume that God is a perfect parent (unlike me), and yet he deals with disobedient and rebellious children.
Just like in the other areas of school where I cannot take the credit for my children's successes, nor the blame for their failures, remember this here as well: do your best to train, and the result is between each child and the Lord.