When To Say ‘Uncle’
Have you ever made a comment and then had to reverse engineer why that popped out of your mouth? That happened to me this fall. It was a situation that made me realize that a lesson I had a hard time absorbing as a home education mom may, just may, have sunk in. Perhaps not everyone will relate to this struggle, but it is a lesson that is helpful to all home educators who might need to know that they can say 'Uncle' when it comes to curriculum choices.
Here's the scoop. My friend had a health challenge and was trying to figure out if something would work for him. He's a smart fellow, who is determined to find a healthy option and was committed and willing to endure as he tried different things. I found this admirable, as it was obvious that it was a sacrifice for him. No one could say that he lacked will power, wasn't giving his all, or that he was looking for an out. He just wanted the right tool, or answer, to address his need. Who can argue with that?
The conversation in question started because of planning for the anticipated release from the commitment. Every try was a thirty-day pledge, and it wasn't the first time he had met the mark. He could hardly wait to complete the required time, but he was determined to. I asked if this latest method had worked, and sadly it had not. So, I couldn't help but ask if he thought anything was going to happen in the last few days to make it worth completing exactly as planned. I mean, there were waffle fries waiting to be consumed as a reward for his self control and mastering this challenge!
When the answer was no, as there was no expectation of a change which would have made it a success, I had to ask the obvious. "Why wait? Why not stop now?" Ah, the horror! I could almost have felt like I should have taken it back. It wasn't met with agreement. In fact, the joke was that I should be supportive until the end. But was I wrong or were we both right?
It wasn't until later that I was able to connect my own experience as a newbie home educator who had struggled to accept the advice I was given. What was the advice? Be committed to your child's learning, instead of resistant to change, when a different curriculum is likely to prove more helpful in a subject. It seemed to fly in the face of all that we might consider 'holy' in the education realm - a fully completed set of curriculum to be done by the end of the year. Maybe earlier if you are a good home educator, no pressure. YOU know what I'm talking about - I know you do!
Starting something means we are supposed to finish it, right? I mean, who gets to decide when that isn't helpful or practical? You do! Our nimbleness is a direct benefit and result of being so completely committed to seeing our individual children and evaluating, daily really, what is or isn't working for them. Where the public school system is unwieldy and unable to make a change to the curriculum during the year, or year-to-year, home educators are absolutely able to consider and act on any need for change that they see. It's one of our not-so-secret strengths.
Knowing if, or when, we should say 'Uncle' is actually the ability to call it as you see it and address reality in real time. No need to play to a crowd that isn't watching. No need to prove something to yourself when you or your child won't benefit from waiting. No need to run down the clock. No need to finish a curriculum that isn't working for you. There is a difference between giving up and wisely making a change that will produce more of what you want to have accomplished in the end - learning. Finishing a season in sports may accomplish the objective of having taught discipline and self-control, perhaps in a subject or a section of a subject too. But if your goal is to increase math or reading skills, for example, then base your decision on that primary criteria.
Make the call, and commit to a change early enough to benefit from it if it is necessary. You can change what might have become torturous into a chance to perfect your technique or curriculum choice in a way that does not kill your child's love of learning! No one should need to twist our arms until we have to admit something isn't working. It is part of the privilege and responsibility of having control and choice in our family's home education journey. And maybe, just maybe, the ability to make a change like that should be celebrated with waffle fries by all involved!