When 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 to no 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 that 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 few years we tried a couple of other curricular options and made tweaks to the ones we had, but reading continued to be difficult for him. He did eventually learn to read, and today he reads technical manuals that I cannot even begin to comprehend; but it was accomplished only with great effort and plenty of tears.
As a young mom, many times I heard that age-old adage from more experienced moms, “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 curriculum was 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 something 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 with my youngest son and been a little more 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 am the older mom encouraging young moms to enjoy their children each precious day and to be thankful for the opportunity to teach them. Take education seriously and know that the process 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, knowing 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.