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Homeschooling: Jump In, Make Mistakes

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Homeschooling: Jump In, Make Mistakes

By Linda Dobson

mistakesIn 1921, as a sloppy health clinician prepared a batch of yummy bran gruel, he spilled some directly onto the stove top where it rapidly sizzled into a crisp flake. As brave as he was curious, the clinician took a bit and found it tasty. Thanks to this accident, we enjoy Wheaties cereal today. Indeed, many great inventions had similarly inauspicious beginnings, commonly called mistakes.

Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities

Somewhere along the line, mistakes got a bad rap they don’t really deserve. (Probably as a result of them being terrible reminders of school, but I digress.) Not only are mistakes a fact of life, they are a source of fabulous learning opportunities. As William James once said, “Without mistakes, how would we know what we have to work on?”

This holds true for your children, but right now we’re talking about you as you learn how to learn with your children. Get in the habit of jumping in and making mistakes! Contrary to much of the media hype, homeschoolers are real families with real parents who sometimes lose their tempers or wish they could just stay in bed all day. They live with real children who sometimes don’t want to walk the dog or eat their vegetables. They make a lot of mistakes others don’t necessarily see, yet most acknowledge that some of their own best learning occurs as a result of …mistakes.

An important aspect of the mistakes you’ll make is your ability to admit them to your children. Maria Romano is a New Jersey mom with four children in public school. Her eldest, Sophie, had a long history of school problems, from not completing homework to frequent detention for sassing a teacher. One day, the school secretary called Maria at work to inform her that Sophie had started a fight with another girl, was being suspended, and needed a ride home.

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“I was so angry with Sophie I couldn’t see straight,” Maria remembers. “When I picked her up I didn’t even ask if she was hurt. She’d been threatened with suspension for any more problems, and here we were.”

“I didn’t start it,” Sophie said softly on the ride home.

“I told her I didn’t believe her,” Maria says, “and I didn’t believe her the next dozen times she claimed that, either.”

Parents Need to Claim Their Mistakes, Too

Two days into Sophie’s suspension, Maria received another call at work. This time it was the school principal. “The other girl just came in with her mother and confessed that her friends had egged her on to fight with Sophie. I’m sorry, Mrs. Romano,” said the principal. “Sophie can return to school tomorrow.”

Maria called home to give Sophie the good news and, more important, to apologize for not believing her. “Discipline has always been pretty strict in our home, and telling Sophie I’d made mistakes when I didn’t believe her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

When Maria returned home from work she went to Sophie’s room where she saw several packed suitcases. “What in the world is going on?” Maria asked.

“I was on my way to the bus station,” said Sophie. If you hadn’t called to tell me you were wrong, that you’d made a mistake, I would have been gone by now.”

Like Maria, you’ll be a bigger person for admitting mistakes and do much to strengthen or, as in Maria’s case, save your relationship with your child. Everyone appreciates honesty. An added bonus is seeing your child understand that it’s more important to make the attempt than it is to be right, a very useful habit throughout life. You’ll provide a living example, more powerful than words, that learning is a lifelong opportunity that continues long after one has left school. And who knows? When you jump in and make mistakes, one of you just may end up inventing the next cereal sensation to sweep the nation.

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