Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Beauty of Individuality

During lunch at our homeschool co-op, I was chatting with one of the moms as she was nursing her littlest one. We were just making small talk, but were both interested in the individuality of our kids. She has a hard time because her 3 year old, who I teach in the preschool class, seems to have a better memory for certain things than her Kindergartener. I teach the preschool during one class, and she teachers her Kindergartner and my Kindergartner during another class. She was also mentioning the fact that my 5 year old can read, but many of the K-1st graders can't. I was quick to point out that my 5 year old can't draw: anything. I half-joked that my 2.5 year old and 5 year old complete identical art projects.

Later that day, in our adult small group, I heard several people mention that they felt an underlying competition or failure to measure up in their sibling and family relationships. I don't know if it was my personality or the way my mom taught us, but I never felt that I had to measure up to my older brother. He was better than me at a lot of things: math, drawing, handwriting, mechanical things. I was better than him at a few things as well. We both liked to write stories and play outside, but I loved to read and so I learned a lot through that as far as spelling and grammar that he never cared quite as much for.

So, how do we teach our children and raise our children to be their own individual self? I think it requires a certain mindset. There should be a mindset, in any educational setting, that there is no "right" way to do things. There is no "right" answer for every child. There is no "right" way to learn to read or to tie your shoes or to draw or color a picture.

Yes, there may be a "proper" way to form letters for handwriting, and a "proper" way to pronounce certain words or color the sky, but if we focus too much on what's "proper" and correcting our children, we are going to be limiting them. If we focus on improving their weaknesses and encourage them to soar in their strengths, we are giving them power and passion for their future rather than defeat and failure.

My youngest is not the "smart" child because he has great fine motor skills, but maybe he will be an artist or a musician or use those skills in a unique way. My oldest is not the "smart" child because he basically taught himself to read at age 4, but maybe he will use that perseverance and focus to as an engineer or scientist.

I'm not suggesting we pigeonhole our children, I'm merely suggesting that we focus on what they do well. Rather than being disappointed that they are not identical, we need to celebrate their individuality. Rather than lamenting my 5-year old's handwriting or scissor skills, I can celebrate his accomplishments at reading and math, while encouraging him to explore more with his art.

So, the next time you start to wonder, is my child normal, they are absolutely perfectly who they are supposed to be. Keep building them up in love, and admire the parts of them that are different and unique.
My stubborn youngest who hates to sleep... asleep at the top of the stairs.
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