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Oops! We Had to Start the Book Over: Learning at a Human Pace

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Surely many of us heard this simple exhortation from parents or grandparents whenever we failed at a task or struggled to complete it. Recently, in our home school, we got to live it out.

After the semester break, it became clear that one of my kiddos did not understand the physical science concepts for Challenge I. We had a meeting at the dining room table. I asked, “What do you think we should do about it?” The response: “I think we should start the book over.” It seemed like a good solution to me.

So, we worked together to formulate a plan and then contacted the Challenge director who was gracious and encouraging. We now had a team of three for support and accountability.

We sketched out a schedule that looked like doing the repeated modules at the pace of one module a week (instead of the usual two weeks per module). When we get back around to the new material, we’ll slow down again. Part of our discussion looked like this: “I’m sorry I failed you, child. I needed to help you pace yourself better and learn how to study.” We grabbed the notebook and went over the idea of reading, writing out definitions, answering chapter questions, completing a chapter study guide, and THEN taking the test. It seemed we had been skipping some of these steps.

Now that we had a plan and some fresh energy, we plunged in. Not surprisingly, my student’s comprehension level went way up after seeing the material a second time and while practicing good study skills.

This ability to adjust to the needs of an individual child is one of the blessings of homeschooling. Most of us parents attended traditional schools. We studied a science text the best we could, crammed for the weekly or bi-weekly test, got back a graded test (either with a good grade or a bad one), and moved on. Few of us were ever asked to go back and fill in the gaps in our understanding. We just moved on.

Learning at a human pace at home means that we have the freedom to fill in these gaps, whether they are gaps in understanding the material or in knowing how to study or both. As my child and I discussed the option of going back and starting the book over, we discussed the reasons why we should do this. After all, we could have just continued to flounder the rest of the year, right?

Together, we came up with three compelling reasons why we should begin afresh. First, we rarely comprehend things the first time we encounter them. It often requires time and repetition before we can truly see. Second, physical science teaches important truths about the way God’s world works. My child lives in this world and should understand that environment. We should press on toward fulfilling the title of the book Understanding Creation Through Physical Science. Third, if we want to develop character, we must help our children make good choices about what to do in the face of adversity. We can choose to give up, or we can make a new plan and persevere. Long after the lessons of physical science are forgotten, the habit of perseverance will remain.

We exercise and strengthen perseverance in these small trials so that we may be able to remain faithful in the large trials. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 NIV).


CATEGORIES: Articles, Big Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and more!, Classical Christian Education, Homeschooling Life, Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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