I sat with Gage and quizzed him on his spelling words, one after another. The next day, he’d be taking his second spelling test of the year and even though he’d done fine on his first one, he’d missed 2 out of 20 and that bummed him out. Only mildly though, compared to how bummed out he would get last year if he ever missed a word. This boy can be one determined, hard-on-himself boy.
So as we studied, we talked about ways to remember the odd spellings of the words that aren’t able to be sounded out like they logically should be, and I admired his focus and drive to nail this test. To get that A+ sticker. To keep studying after his brothers had left the school table. It made me think about a post Heather Sanders wrote over on Pioneer Women | Homeschooling about using learning incentives. More specifically monetary learning incentives. She gave great points in support of it and I totally admire her and respect her advice, so while I watched Gage study I thought, sure! Let’s reward him for an A+ and all this hard work.
I told him that when he gets 5 A+’s in a row, he’d get $1. My kids don’t earn money from us … we don’t do allowances … they just contribute to the house work when I ask since they live here too and make 80% of the messes. So, I thought, this might be a fun little reward for them!
With a little shrug of his shoulders, lift of his eye-browns, tilt of his head, he said, “Hmm, I guess that would be alright.”
Alright? I pressed for why that idea didn’t tickle his fancy …to find out if it were the low amount …. did he want more money? $1 PER A+?? Not that I’d offer, but I was curious.
“Mom, I just want to do good on my tests because I want to do GOOD. I want to know the stuff and get it right on my tests. I just try hard so I can do well.”
My eyes teared up, a tiny ounce of pressure I put on my own homeschooling-teacher shoulders lifted and I grabbed his hand. I told him how proud that response made me. Rather than talking about his use of the word ‘good’, we began talking about how critical a strong work ethic is. About how, yes, his Dad goes to work to support our family but he is not satisfied with, or rewarded by, a paycheck … he needs to know he did his job well and as well as he could. The incentive has to be so much more than the paycheck or the congratulations or the A+ sticker. Those are fabulous responses to hard work, but is that the measure of success?
In talking with Gage, he helped piece together some of my answer to a question I’ve been pondering since reading another one of Heather Sander’s posts. Here is an excerpt:
“When it comes to our kids’ education, where does the rubber meet the road?
As in, Jeff and I have been homeschooling our children for years now, but is there a specific point where we will clearly see how their education holds up? Is there a moment when it will register how conditioned they are for life’s race? How will Jeff and I know if we effectively equipped them? Will there be an experience or moment that provides the blessed assurance that “Yes! INDEED! Here’s all the proof we need that we did it right! Drive on, crouton!”
There is such a growing concern for standards and testing–for what? Have we proven ourselves if our children graduate high school or its equivalence with a 4.0 grade point average? Is college the marker? Is it a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate that proves the overall success of their educational endeavors?
Each question leads to another question until it becomes one of those yes or no flow charts that ultimately circle back to the same starting point, regardless of the answers.”
I have asked myself this countless times! How do I know that this is working?? I’ve realized that I can’t just look the end of the race to determine this. I have to tally up all the little success we have along the way. Cooper’s light going on about tens and ones. Helping Kaden work through some of his speech issues. Listening to Cooper retell a story and feeling certain that he gets it. Hearing them belt out the Books of the Bible. Them ask to pray before we start school. Offering to read to Kaden. Offering to help me without being asked. And Gage telling me that he wants to work hard and do well simply because that is the right thing to do.
Little successes, day by day, and I have to trust that in the end they will compile to result in the outcome we’d hoped for from homeschooling our children. That they would love and trust the Lord. That they would be each others best friends. That they come to me and their Dad first. That they can learn and apply what they’ve learned. And that they’d be hard, honest workers. And if they get jobs that enable them to buy me a house on a sandy beach for all the dedication I gave to their education? I’d be alright with that.
But, that can’t be the measure of success. That leaves way too much time for me to wonder if I’m going to fail them. And trust me, I do wonder that at least once in 4 out of 5 of our school days. Sheesh, I wonder that about my mothering in general. But I remind myself to enjoy the successes along the way, as small or big as they may be … and as infrequent as they sometimes come … as an encouragement that we’re getting there! This is working.
Thank you for being here and for reading! xoxo
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