Competition, love, and reading

When we first decided to homeschool, my oldest was three.  I felt so judged by everyone and everything.  It was a hard time.  I felt like I was going to prove to the world that I was right and that my child was brilliant, and I would do that by turning her into a genius.

Like many moms who think that way, I started with reading.  I was sure that if my three-year-old could read to everyone, they’d leave me alone.  Oh, and they’d all be amazed, too.  Cha-ching.

I now know that one of the most damaging things we can do is use our child’s accomplishments to compare and measure ourselves against other mothers.  It’s damaging to our child.  It’s hurtful to ourselves.  It’s painful and selfish and takes learning down a path that isn’t learning at all.  It’s a moronic game we moms play too often.  Don’t do it.  

Well, she was smart.  And she did read well.  And everyone was amazed.  But I was doing it for the wrong reasons after a while.  And guess what?  She started to hate it.  Because there was pressure.  After a couple of months into reading lessons, she lost interest.  She was three, for crying out loud.  Of course she lost interest!  The lessons got harder and longer and they were exceptionally boring.  She just couldn’t sit still long enough.  But I’d already paraded her around, and now that the world was watching, I couldn’t allow her to stop.  Other mothers were now competing with me and their kids were catching up fast.  I could just hear the catty comments in my mind and I couldn’t bear it.  So I pushed her.  I pushed her too hard, and she began to hate reading.

It took me months to finally learn.  But I finally did, and I let her take a break for a little while.  She learned to read just fine, but it took her years after that to start to enjoy it.

Fast forward a few years to my third daughter.  Lesson learned.  No parading, comparing, or competing.  She began learning when she showed an interest.  She loved it so much that half-way through our set lessons, she broke off on her own and began reading Magic Tree House books instead.  She reads voraciously, and loves it.  Loves, loves, loves it.  I never once had to push her.  The library is her sanctuary.

I’m now teaching my fourth child to read.  She is a free spirit.  She currently has little to no attention span.  We spend days on one lesson sometimes.  Other times, we don’t read for a week, because she’s not into it.  But some days, she is, and she devours one or two lessons in 20 minutes.  When she’s ready, she advances in leaps and bounds.  Up until now, she has really not enjoyed writing.  All of a sudden, though, she’s writing her name and asking for help to write other things.  She’s ready, and she’s letting me know.

Don’t push your kids.  Don’t pit them (or yourself) against others.  Let it come, because it will come.  And it can come with joy.