Friday, January 16, 2009

The 7 Year Old Boy

Homeschooling is not for everyone or for every kid, but for those of you taking that path...

I received this in an e-mail from Sonlight. Once a month they highlight some of the conversations on their forums. I appreciated what this woman had to say so I thought I would pass it along. One note...when asking her permission to post this on my blog I also asked some particulars about how she instilled discipline in her boys while letting them have lots of freedom. She confirmed what I have heard a lot from other women. Teach them to work hard physicallly, do chores, and give them responsibility. Focus on obedience and diligence in all they try to do. Then when you do begin to hit the books heavy they will know how to work hard there too.

The 7 Year Old Boy

This little guy is on every homeschool message board I read. He is in every homeschool support group I've ever known.

He's almost always the oldest child in his family. As a firstborn child, he is often very smart and slightly serious of disposition. His parents, his Sunday school teacher, and his pediatrician have all agreed that he is "gifted" and "exceptional."

For a little boy with so many positive qualities, it is sad that he can't seem to do anything right. Everyone who looks at him sees the word "capability" branded across his childish forehead. They think he should always be able to do more. They think he always needs more. They think they have an obligation to provide him with more.

More schoolbooks. More activities. More friends. More rigor. More routine. More planning of each of his hours so that all the boxes of academia and socialization are checked. More responsibility. More heavy expectations.

Is it possible that the homeschool community is failing the firstborn seven year old boy? I think we may be. After all, we teach Mama ways to make him pay attention to his math lessons. We encourage her to buy ever more expensive curriculum that will make her feel that he or she have failed if it is too soon to use it. We stay quiet when she heaps life on him, even when we're farther down the road and know better.

If I could say one thing to a new homeschooling Mama it would be this:

"Your seven year old boy is a little child. He is very little. He is an amazing genius and he will make this world a better place, but for now he is a little child. He doesn't need all the things you think he needs. He needs a safe and loving home and proper food, clothing, and shelter. He needs friends and acquaintances who cross all barriers of age, race, and class. He needs hours and hours in God's beautiful world outdoors. He needs stories and a few toys and tools.

Stop planning. Stop worrying. Stop scheduling every second of his little life in order to get the most out of him right now. You are going backwards. His life will be richer and fuller if you allow him to bloom and ripen in a natural and wholesome way. You will never, ever have these childhood days with him again. Do not fill them up with all your imagined requirements. You will so regret that you didn't just live with him and love him and let your life rub off on him gently. You will blink and he will be twelve and you will wonder what your hurry was. You will blink again and he'll be grown. You'll look at a photo of him at seven years old and see for the first time that he was a little, little child."

I know whereof I speak. I went against my own desires to rush my exceptional child. I wanted to rush him! He could do everything. He was a genius. He was so sober-minded and capable, practically from birth. But I didn't. I taught him to read when he was three, I admit, but I did not "school" him until much later. It seemed to me that he would do great things in his time, and I must not try to make him do great things before then. So I filled the house with good storybooks and held myself back.

When we did begin homeschooling, I kept studies to an hour a day until he was in third grade. That's ALL studies, including religion and life skills. I wanted to see this child run in the sunshine and laugh, laugh, laugh because THAT was the image I wanted to keep of him. Not tired, not toiling over books or being shuttled to schools and activities. No, I wanted to remember little Nathaniel in the sunshine, laughing. I thank God that I do have that image to carry with me forever.

Nathaniel is twelve now. By any definition he is rigorously homeschooled. We use the Well Trained Mind and Sonlight. He is working on Hebrew and Greek, high school level science and English, and he can play four instruments proficiently.

It was OK to wait and let him be little. He took off when he was 10 and the sky is his limit. Learning is still new. He swallows textbooks whole and begs for more. He reads heavy stuff for fun. He spends hours in museums and loves every minute.

He is not just a walking encyclopedia, a lovingly nurtured brain. He is a whole person. He makes friends easily and enjoys God's world. His body is strong and healthy. His music makes strangers laugh and cry for joy. He has the support and love of his extended family and his church. His future is bright and his prospects are endless.

It was RIGHT to deny myself the pleasure and self-satisfaction of teaching him too early. He had the foundation he needed to grow into an amazing young man. The foundation was love, acceptance, and daily family life. A foundation of academia and box-checking seems dusty and moldy to me in comparison. I am thankful that I have no regrets about the early education of Nathaniel James. --Weathertop Academy


Abby said...

hi brandy, i found your blog through jennifer horne's and then gathered that we must know a lot of the same people if you are, in fact, a member of trinity in b'ham. i go to jennifer's church in st. louey, but we used to live in the ham and went to faith pres. well, regardless of whether we have a kazillion friends in common or not, i thought i would tell you how much i appreciate this post as i have a seven year old exactly as you described (only she is a girl). i never want to do her a disservice by not challenging her, but i also don't want to turn her into a stressed out, performance driven freak. you are right, she is a little, little girl. sometimes she seems to be the one who wants to grow up, and i have to urge her to be happy being a little girl. this reiterates that i need to keep encouraging her and not worry that i don't have her enrolled in a million activities. thanks!

Brandy said...

Abby, Thanks so much for stopping by! We must have lots of friends in common if you used to go to Faith and are now at Providence. I am so glad that you liked this post. It was a big encouragement to me as well. It is so hard to keep things like this in mind when the trend it to do it all NOW. Have a wonderful rest of the week :0)