Saturday, May 16, 2009

More on Listening

You would think that once I learned my lesson, I would remember it. But old ways are stubborn things. When I felt pressed, was too tired, got sick, had too much to do, or just forgot, I would go back to my old communication mode. This meant me talking, and a lot of it.

Children are the best teachers I know. Our miserable days sent me scrambling for reasons why. At some point, I finally discovered that my children's responses provided important feedback that could help me do my job better. Their resistance was not just rebellion. It was information. A sagging spirit was not an attitude problem. It signaled the need for adjustments.

Over time, I learned that if we were miserable during school, it was almost always because:

1. someone did not feel heard or understood;
2. the material was not suitable for the student;
3. the student felt overwhelmed by the assignment and needed it broken down into smaller steps;
4. the student was too tired or having trouble concentrating or not feeling well;
5. mom was too tired or having trouble concentrating or not feeling well;
6. mom was not communicating clearly in a way that the student could understand;
7. the student thought that mom was not pleased with him.

This covered a whopping 98% of our miserable moments.

If I listened to them with my full attention, my kids told me or showed me the cause of their misery. It was absurdly simple. It took years for me to understand this, then even longer to develop a conviction that listening to them was the most important thing I could do.

This is an essential key to building a curriculum, over time, that fits your family and to building a life of joy: listen. Then take the information you've gathered with you to your next conference, to your reading of a curriculum guide, even to your perusal of curriculum catalogs. Listen for the guidance and the program, the resources, that seem to answer your child's longings and fit their natural bent. It will take some trial and error. You will have to forgive your mistakes. But keep at it. Steady effort, over time, brings success.

Insider's tip: sometimes moms of teenagers really struggle with this concept. It can be very difficult to listen in a fresh way to your kids when you think you already (by now) know them. Not only this, but they may go through stretches where a good bit of their feedback is negative. Try to be patient with them and not make too many assumptions. Remember that they are changing all the time as they mature. You need to continue to listen to them all the way through their school years.


  1. So true about the sagging spirit that signals adjustments. As mothers, we have to learn to tune in to those moments. Thanks for writing! I found your blog from the Homeschool Lounge. I'll be coming back to read more!

  2. Good to meet you, Laura. Thanks for stopping by.


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