Friday, September 25, 2009

The Apple Recipe: L

Our next ingredient in the APPLE recipe is easy to ignore. But you shouldn't. To build the best school you can, you need to make a commitment to --

Listen. Every time your kids respond to your instruction or an assignment, they are giving you important feedback. Every time. But it's not just their words you should be listening to. There are a vast array of signs and signals coming from your school room and in all the hours of the day about what your students need, how they are maturing, what works well, and what needs to be addressed. The key is to pay attention and to be open. Ultimately, every day with your kids can teach you something.

The bad days show you what your children need and where the problems are. Is attitude an issue? Is the curriculum getting the job done? Do you need to break tasks down into smaller components? Do your children just need some personal time and attention with you?

The good days tell you what is working well. On these days, your children are showing you how they learn best. You should reflect on these days as well. Think about what is right with your school and why. Explore how to repeat these good experiences more often.

The best home school teachers spend more time asking questions and listening, during school lessons, in the car, while cleaning the house and cooking meals, and especially in times of conflict. It's important that our efforts to change are guided, in part, by feedback from our students. Many times, we are busy and we don't listen enough to our kids, not to the degree that would really be helpful. We think we listen, but when we unwrap our conversations with our children, we often find that we've been too quick to assume we knew what they were saying. Our focus has been on our own words, not theirs. I had to learn this the hard way.

To find out how I learned it, read this from an earlier post . . .

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 and needed the lesson 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.

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 lot 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.

Is there something your child is telling or showing you right now?


Storms have created a widespread internet outage for our service provider. I plan to continue posting Monday through Friday next week, but each day I must leave the house to publish posts on my blogs -- so posts may be published a little later in the day.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this! You communicate it so beautifully and clearly. As homeschool moms, and simply mothers, we need mentoring from someone who's been there, done that. I try to do that with younger women who are just starting out with very little ones, but I find that I still need it too! Yesterday was not a good day, and every time I step back to evaluate, the reasons are just as you said. Thank you for posting!


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