Tuesday, September 28, 2010


:the act of regarding something as likely to happen

It would not be a stretch to say that I am learning more from homeschooling A than she is learning from me.  One lesson I learned last week was how my lack of experience in teaching can lead to unrealistic expectations.

I began to question whether my expectations were the problem after A's first draft of a paper.  She had read biographies of three dancers and I asked her to do a project on them. She chose to write a paper.  I explained that if she chose to write a paper, I expected at least five full paragraphs - an intro, one on each dancer and a conclusion.  We worked on an outline together and talked about what points should be included in her paragraphs about each dancer.  A was inclined to include factual tidbits in these paragraphs and I wanted a more thematic approach.  I didn't want her to merely convey facts, but to analyze what she'd learned and draw some conclusions.  After the outline, A wrote a draft.

It was when we reviewed the draft together that I began to question whether A was capable of doing what I was asking of her.  Her draft wasn't bad.  But it wasn't what I was looking for and as I explained this to her, she grew visibly agitated and frustrated.  She wasn't being disrespectful, but she struggled to articulate why doing what I was asking was difficult.  I listened to her, held my ground on my expectations in a non-confrontational way and immediately e-mailed a friend with a fellow fifth grader to see whether she thought my expectations were out of line.

My friend's daughter agreed that if she were to read three biographies and write a paper on them, she would be inclined to report interesting facts from them.  Both A and her friend are capable writers for their age, so it seemed I was simply asking A to do something that she hadn't done before and there was a learning curve we needed to scale.

Without saying anything to A, I adjusted my expectations for what her final product would look like.  I still had her re-write the paper and submit a final paper.  She was diligent in its completion and I was pleased with the results.  But would I have been pleased with them had we not worked through outline, draft and discussion together?  Probably not.  But I think what I envisioned was not a paper a fifth grader can write.  At least, it's not a paper my fifth grader can write at this stage in the game.

I assert that I'm learning more than A through this experience because I'm learning to value effort over results (something I can do far more easily with my children than with myself), I'm learning to set my expectations all along the way instead of etching them in stone and I'm (hopefully) learning to apply these lessons more broadly - in parenting, in relationships, in how I see myself.

1 comment:

Gigi said...

I homeschooled my JOshua for 2 years. I can say unequivocally that I learned far more than he did. Some of the things I learned were quite painful. I feel like I was introduced to "Ugly Me." At times, I could not believe how I responded to him. Given some time, I have a lot more grace for myself. I know that we were both doing something new. I treasure the time I had with him. Now I understand that some of my frustration came from trying to teach one son to read and the other to potty. Too much at one time! Ha ha!

These lessons you are learning right now will stay with you both forever.