Back in 1999, I was homeschooling two young sons while caring for a newborn. My oldest was in the second grade, and his younger brother was beginning kindergarten. My plan that year was to teach my kindergartner how to read. He was an eager beaver because he had seen how easy it was for my oldest son to read, and he wanted to be just like him. He was motivated and his expectation was that he would learn easily. I unfortunately, encouraged that expectation, not understanding at that time, that there are vast learning differences in each of my children. On top of that, a well-meaning friend had encouraged me to use a popular program that had one hundred, “easy,” lessons. Ha! What could possibly go wrong?
I wish I had the wisdom I have now, but I didn’t. One day, after a particularly torturous “easy,” reading session my son was in tears – and I, in frustration and sin, threw the book on the floor. Not a brilliant mom moment. My mind was careening – What was wrong? Why couldn’t he follow the “easy,” directions? Why was he complaining that it was too hard? Why was he asking me to “say it again,” over and over? Was I bad teacher? Why was it so hard? In a slurry of emotion, as the book hit the rug, I looked at my son’s precious little face, and my heart broke. He gazed up at me with tears brimming, and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” He was sorry, because I lost my self-control and threw a book. I was ruined with conviction. I wept that I was sorry, that it was my sin, not his. He had done absolutely nothing wrong! I asked for his forgiveness, and being the sweet little soul he is, he gave it generously. Yet, I knew that I needed to do much more than just apologize. I needed to take my thoughts captive, choose to accept reality, and adjust my expectations.
My son did not learn to read that year, but by the time he was seven he was making solid progress in decoding. However, it would five more years before he could spell at grade level. That is the reality of auditory processing disorder.
That year, I learned that false expectations can lead to harm. Are all expectations harmful?
The Webster 1828 dictionary defines expectation this way:
The act of expecting or looking forward to a future event with at least some reason to believe the event will happen.
Expectations can be healthy. Our children will learn. They will progress in reading and math. They will learn about the way the world works, and how man has impacted others throughout history. Hopefully, with instruction, they will learn to be polite and kind. They will always be learning. They will not be perfect. They will fail at times. None of it will be easy. Those are all healthy expectations! There are barriers to healthy expectations, and if we are not careful we can fall into the trap of embracing false hope.
Barriers to Healthy Expectations
Expecting ease – Learning is not easy for all children. Learning disabilities may become apparent. Attitudes may need correcting. The best thing we can do is to expect obstacles and trials along the way. This way we are not surprised or blindsided when they happen. We are better prepared to accept trial as part of the process.
Comparisons – Your student is unique and so are you! Don’t compare your family with another. The grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence….until you hop the fence.
Assumptions – Never assume that what works for one student, family, or teacher will always work for another. We are not all alike. I love Do It Yourself projects, but I’ve learned that I cannot insist on using a hammer, when a screwdriver is the better tool for a particular job. Likewise, just because a literature based unit study worked wonders for one student, does not mean that it will do the same job for a child who struggles with reading and comprehension.
Remember, learning styles, disabilities, temperaments, personal circumstances, and teaching style all come into play when we form expectations in education. Be aware and be fair.
Expectations have a tendency to color the world. In essence, they filter the reality in which we live. They have the power to turn our hearts away from our children, as we insist on our own way. Please don’t let that happen. Determine now, to walk willingly in truth and to be aware of our tendency as fallen people, to rely on our own understanding. Spend time in the Word everyday, always seeking to lay down your false expectations for the good of your family. Don’t skip your quiet time. Meditate on Scripture and actively receive Christ throughout your day. Learn to rest in the power of Christ, rather than powering through your day in your own strength.
And when you mess up, like me? Count it as an opportunity to live out the gospel. Be humble. Confess your sin to your children. Repent. Let them see you work on submitting to Jesus. Ask for their forgiveness. You will be their model, and God will use all of it – the whole magnified mess – for our good and His glory.
Remember, mama, it is in our weakness that His power is made perfect. His grace is sufficient. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6
What false expectations have you had of your children or your homeschool?