First Rule of Homeschooling
©1994-2005 by Ed Dickerson, all rights reserved.
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“I know how valuable your contribution has been to my family” J.R.
The First Rule

Anything Worth Doing. . .

I rarely encounter a homeschool family whose children failed to learn because the parents neglected to expend sufficient effort instructing their children. Again and again, the most serious learning problems arise because parents do too much, push rather than encourage, start according to the parents timetable rather than the child's readiness. With all the best intentions, they make the most serious mistakes. Using the same textbook where most classroom teachers assign every other question at most, homeschool parents often assign every question on every page!

Far too often, parents demand more of their children, and of themselves, than anyone could possibly perform. Year after year they find themselves in serious burnout by early spring. "I don't know if we'll ever do this again," they sigh, referring to homeschooling. Far too often, children and youth finish the year as turned off to learning as any child who ever served a term in a classroom. What a pity! Classrooms routinely teach children to loathe learning and promote friction between child and parents. Homeschooling should not be like that. No activity in this world consists solely of pleasure, but homeschooling should be predominantly a joyful experience.

Observing the travail so many experience has led me to formulate my first rule of homeschooling:

Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly"

You read it right--anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. Why poorly? Because only by being willing to do something poorly will we ever learn to do it well.

We learn by trial and error. If we cannot accept our errors, cannot accept doing something poorly, we cannot learn to do it well. Any attempt at a new and unfamiliar task will most likely result in less than a perfect performance. Repeated attempts may continue to fall short. If we cannot accept poor performance in ourselves at the outset, we will soon cease attempting anything which presents us with the prospect of performing poorly.

Thus, few things obstruct learning more than perfectionism. Since we rarely perform anything new perfectly, the perfection imperative eventually prevents us from attempting anything new. Whatever prevents us from attempting anything new and previously untried, prevents us from learning.

This places many of us in a bind. Understandably, we want our children to do their best, and we want to do our best for them. This leads us into strenuous efforts on their behalf, and an acute sense of anxiety when we fail to meet our expectations, either for ourselves or our children.

Modeling perfectionism increases frustration for our children. Since most experiences and skills are new to them, perfectionism, the need to do everything well, closes off most of the universe of learning.

By contrast, our willingness to be imperfect, to try new things and not do well, liberates our children to venture into the world of learning, to risk doing poorly at first in order to do well later, and to attempt many things rather than a few. Economists tell us that the marketplace rewards risk. Likewise, the marketplace of learning pays learning dividends to those willing to risk failure.