Today I realized I’m teaching a 6 year old version of myself. Dylan is the exact replica of his pefectionistic black and white mother.
This morning he wouldn’t write something out that I asked him to unless I told him EXACTLY how it was spelled. I tried to explain to him to spell it how it sounded to him, so that I knew how he was thinking and what he already knew. He threw a MONSTROUS FIT and ended up crying in a corner in another room yelling that he didn’t want to be in the same room with me. I took that opportunity to take a little cat nap in the chair I was in until he decided to talk to me. When he finally decided to talk to me, he YELLED (b/c he was so far away it was the only way I’d hear him) “It’s not that I’m trying to be rude to you!” I asked him if he acted like this at Awanas when his teacher there told him to write out something and he said no. I asked him why. I got more silence. So I went back to snoozing.
“BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE BEEN EMBARRASSED IF I DID THIS THERE!!” Followed by some crying. My heart broke for him as I realized that even though his fits made me CRAZY, he felt comfortable enough to show his weaknesses at home where he was loved, rather than in a class with a bunch of other kids…..even if it was just Awanas. He continued with “I don’t want to do it unless it’s perfect!” Ugh, not only did my heart brake for him, but my stomach churned with the familiar feeling of not wanting to attempt anything if it can’t be done perfectly. The feeling that if you anticipate failing in the slightest, you don’t even want to try. The boy is his mothers son for sure.
I asked him to come sit with me, we talked for a little bit, and the he did as I had asked almost 30 minutes prior. Did he spell all of it correctly? No. He spelled half of it correctly, and the rest he spelled how it sounded to him. Now I have a better understanding of how things sound to him, and he knows that if he tries his best, he’s sure to get at least some of it right.
I thought that lesson in perfection was just for Dylan. NOPE. Mine came about two hours later when waves of failure washed over me as he balked to do his reading…… after having an hour of free time. I was frustrated. I was feeling, like I do at last 10x a day, that maybe this isn’t the right choice. Maybe he would be better off in school. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe is a perfectionists worst enemy. Because everything could MAYBE be better. Nothing is ever just good enough, or okay, or satisfactory.
I was sitting here in tears, trying to find ways to get my mind off of the never ending thoughts and feelings of failure and frustration…… when I decided to read a homeschool magazine a friend had dropped off. (Thanks Karin!) I read a few articles and while reading them I thought “I’m just like Dylan was about writing out those words. I don’t want to do this unless I can be told play by play how to do it, with the guarantee that it will be right and pefect.”
Just like Dylan, I will do half of it right, and half of it wrong. Seeing what was done wrong will show us how we learn and think and where we need to tweak it. He won’t forever spell Achan wrong (hard word to spell by sound for a 6 year old!), and I won’t forever go about homeschooling wrong. He spelled the other word right (sin), and I do some of this right. There has to be a happy medium, where perfectionism doesn’t rule – or destroy – and we all feel like we’ve accomplished something and learned something we didn’t wake up that day already knowing. If that is the bar I have to set for now to keep us motivated, then so be it. I know that the farther we get into this homeschool journey, the higher that bar will rise. It may not rise at the same pace as others – homeschool or public – but it’s ours for the raising.
Oh, and the lesson this morning was the story of Achan’s Sin at Jericho and Dylan was drawing an illustration of it while I read. I asked him to write “Achan’s Sin.” What he wrote was “AGINES SIN.” 😉