Homeschooling fears: will I goof up teaching her?

A broken pencil.
Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

This is the final post in a series about the fears I had about homeschooling before we began, and how I feel now, four years in.

Will I goof up teaching her?

I mean, of course I will goof it up! Teachers are humans, and humans are fallible. And we all wind up with gaps in our education, they're unavoidable. The better question is how will I handle the goof-ups and gaps.

The goof-ups

With the goof-ups, I figured out that I want to model for Wanda how to handle those moments. Most important: I admit that I goofed up.

There is a common and unfortunate undercurrent in adult-child interactions. Adults often feel a knee-jerk reaction that admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness, and can upset a power balance. The child must believe that the adult has it all figured out, so they will do what the adult says without question! The adult denies their mistake, doubles down, deflects.

Yowzers. I don't have time to get into how ill-founded and unhealthy that whole dynamic is, so I'll just say, I work hard to purge any lingering vestiges of that attitude out of my brain. Nobody wins in a power struggle, ew. Wanda and I are partners. We are collaborators.

Common phrases I use when I goof up:

  • "I gave you bad information! I'm so sorry—I was mistaken. I've learned from [cite source], here's what I know now, to the best of my understanding..."
  • "I don't like how I handled that. You deserve better. Can I try again?"
  • "Ah, dang it, I was being critical, when I should have been curious. I'm sorry. Thank you for letting me know."
  • "I've been listening to and learning from some voices with different experience than mine, and I want to share how my thoughts have changed with this new perspective."

This is one of the most powerful pieces to our homeschooling. I am already seeing a shift in how Wanda reacts to her own goof-ups. She's quicker to accept them, and do repair. She's less defensive. And most important of all: she's much gentler on herself. We've erased some of the shame of goofing up, and I'm hopeful that I just might be raising an open-minded, thoughtful kid.

The gaps

I've written a whole-ass website about my efforts to give my daughter a thorough education. Still, gaps in her knowledge are going to happen. I have them, you have them, and despite a lot of work on my part, my daughter is going to have them.

The goal is that Wanda will (fingers crossed) understand how to deal with those gaps. Filling them on her her own will hopefully be second nature, as she will be familiar with plenty of avenues for deepening her understanding. The harder nut to crack is for her to not be defensive in moments when her understanding of the world is challenged because of information she was missing. Which circles back to my modeling that humility, and admitting when I've gotten something wrong.