They Have to Stand Before They Can Run

Growth in Schooling and Education

My daughter just sent me a sweet side-by-side picture that shows my granddaughter at five days old and at one year old in front of the same blossoming apple tree. Children grow so much that first year!

It has been especially fun to watch that little one become mobile. She has wanted to move and explore since the day she was born. Over this past year we have watched as she learned to sit up, to crawl, and to gain her balance on her feet; to practice moving those feet with a grown-up’s hand to steady her, then to take her own steps; to stumble and fall, to bump into walls and table legs; to walk on smooth wood, thick carpet, and uneven ground outside; to walk with bare feet, with fuzzy socks, and with sturdy shoes.

It has been a gradual process. She hasn’t started running . . . yet.

Growth is a gradual process. Whether it is physical growth or mental growth, that growth is designed to happen gradually over time.

It’s a good principle to keep in mind for homeschooling.

We do not expect a new crawler to stand on her own. She’s not ready for that yet. She is still learning to judge distance, remembering how to move forward instead of backward, and determining how to negotiate the obstacles in her path on her hands and knees. She will need to go through lots of experimenting and learning and fine tuning before she is ready for the next step. Our job is not to push, but to give support and encouragement along the way.

And we should not expect a new reader and writer to spell precisely on her own in every situation. She is still learning to recognize the letters in a certain order that forms a particular word, still working on forming the letters correctly when putting them on paper herself. She needs the support of copywork to help her gain the experience of forming the letters and putting them in the correct order even as she works at reading them. Don’t expect every word that falls from her pencil in her play time or leisure time to be spelled correctly at this stage. She will experiment and learn and fine tune as she goes along. Right now her thoughts will outrun her spelling and writing abilities, but give her support, time, and encouragement and she will grow in her spelling. It is a gradual process.

Why would we expect a nine- or ten-year-old to be writing five-paragraph essays when he is most likely still experimenting with capturing his fleeting thoughts and getting them down on paper at all? Combine that challenge with trying to remember how to form the letters and recalling how to spell each word, and oh yes, be sure to use correct capitalization and punctuation, and then rearrange those thoughts to fit an exact format like a five-paragraph essay and it’s no wonder those budding authors shut down. It’s too much too soon for many of them. We should not expect him to run while he’s still getting used to the weight of shoes on his feet. Right now he needs our calm and encouraging support, and we need to remember that with time to practice, he will gain confidence in that putting-it-down-on-paper stage. We can help him fine tune the format later, but let’s allow him to progress a step at a time as he is ready. He needs space to grow gradually.

Just as your child grew gradually through the stages of standing and cruising and walking and finally running—and all of the incremental variations within each of those stages,—so he will grow gradually through the stages of reading and writing and all of the skills that are involved in the education process. Yes, there will be bumps and stumbles along the way; those are prime learning blocks. The key is to support and encourage and allow each child to progress as he or she is ready. We have 12 years to reach our goals; we don’t have to push and prod and panic all along the way.

Give your student the gift of time to experiment without pressure and learn without shame. With your patient guidance each incremental step of the way, she’ll run when she’s ready.

One comment

  1. Growth mindset is such a key aspect to education! My favorite quote drawn from this post is: “We have 12 years to reach our goals; we don’t have to push and prod and panic all along the way.” As an outsider it may be hard to be patient and let the growing take place (especially when reading and writing are skills that take years to fully mature), but as with a garden the best fruits are enjoyed when, after tending and pruning, they are fully ripened.

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