hen my youngest son was learning to read, I started teaching him with the phonics
program I had used with his older brother. A few months into the year we had made
little progress. I was frustrated, he was frustrated, and we were both often in tears. At
Christmas I borrowed another phonics program from a friend, with hopes it might “click” with
his learning style, but by May he was still unable to read, and the tears still flowed regularly.
During the summer I continued to work with him, trying to teach my struggling little learner
how to read.
Over the next fewyears we tried a couple of other curricular options andmade tweaks to the ones we
had, but reading continued to be difficult for him. He did eventually learn to read, and todayhe reads
technical manuals that I cannot even begin to comprehend; but it was accomplished only with great
effort and plenty of tears.
As a youngmom, many times I heard that age-old adage frommore experiencedmoms,“Enjoy them;
they grow up in a hurry.” Though I felt I still had many years of school books and childhood
tears ahead of me, I did not let their words go completely unheeded. I tried to be thankful
for each day and enjoy my children, but doing so did not eliminate difficult days. Like all moms,
I had times when I let my frustrations get the better of me—losing my patience with my children.
There were also other times when I was able to step back and see that the issue at hand was
really quite small, and I was granted grace to patiently handle the problem. There were days
when learning was fun and lessons were finished quickly; and days when studies were hard,
tempers were high, and tears readily flowed. We had some bitter disappointments when all
the hard work we put into a science experiment failed, and there were times when we simply
laughed together when projects went awry. There were difficult days when we stuck it out to
the bitter end and other hard days when we packed up school and went on a picnic or some
other fun outing.
During those early years I was often saddened to discover some anticipated new curriculumwas not
what I expected. My students battled through it with frustration and tears because I was
determined to use my purchase. Eventually I learned that sometimes a change in curriculum
or a different approach to a subject could be just the thing to turn a frustrated student into an
eager learner. Although it was hard on my school budget and on my pride, we would try some-
thing different. As I became more confident in my own teaching abilities, I also learned that
we did not always need to strictly adhere to a curriculum’s specific format. With some creativity
and supplemental materials, we could use the general information and salvage what might
have been a curriculum flop earlier. Those happy modifications were the result of experience
gained through frustrations and tears.
If I had it to do over again, I am sure there are things I would do differently. I might have waited a little
longer withmy youngest son and been a littlemore patient. I might not have changed curriculum
so often with my struggling little speller but might simply have stuck to one program until he
mastered it. I might have made some different curricular choices in other areas and done a host
of other minor things. However, even if I knew then what I know now, I don’t think we could
have completely avoided those days of struggle. Some experience is only gained by trial, and
some difficulties are only mastered with struggle. Take heart. There will come a time when there
are no more tears—when there are no more students at home.
Today I amthe oldermomencouraging youngmoms to enjoy their children eachprecious day and to
be thankful for the opportunity to teach them. Take education seriously and know that the pro-
cess of training up a child can be a difficult journey, often fraught with tears. The days do pass
quickly, so treasure the tears as well as the laughter and the smiles. Dry the tears gently, know-
ing they will soon cease. Encourage your children when learning is hard, keep looking for ways
to remove those stumbling blocks, and don’t be discouraged by the tears. There will be difficult
days, but there will come a time when childhood tears will cease
and you will sadly realize that there are no more little tears to dry.
Sheila Campbell began homeschooling in 1991 and continued home-
schooling as a single parent after the death of her husband in
2001. She was also the parent of a special needs child whom she
cared for at home until his death in 2004. Now that her children
have all graduated, Sheila pursues her writing, after being a valued
member of the THSC staff. She resides in Hale Center and invites you
to visit her blog at
by Sheila Campbell