By Lillie Therieau
We have a whole lot of emotions for our kids. We might feel protective if our child is getting bullied. We might feel overwhelmed with joy when they celebrate a win. We might feel sadness when they can’t go on that field trip they were so excited about.
In fact, for many parents, your child can inspire the most intense emotions you experience. Ultimately, these intense emotions are coming from our deep-seated love and desire for their success.
While that emotion is what makes parenting a total joy and life-changing experience, it can get in the way when we decide to take on the role of educator.
In fact, it’s one of the biggest things I see as Elephant Learning’s Chancellor that’s holding parents back from seeing true success in their children:
When we decide to put emotion into teaching.
In this resource for homeschooling parents, I’ll talk to you about the three ways parents often react to their child doing poorly in a subject, and discuss some strategies for letting those emotions go and being more of an objective coach.
So, your kid failed their math test. Here are three responses that you, as a homeschooling parent might have:
Number 1: Projecting the emotions out. Sometimes, your desire for your child’s success can cause you to feel strong emotions when they experience a loss or make a mistake. You may react angrily or feel disappointment, but remember that these emotions aren’t constructive for your child! Instead of coming from a place of quick emotion and reaction, try to calm down and consider where the mistake arose, and how you can most effectively address it.
Number 2: Denying failure. It can be hard to have to grade your student poorly as a homeschooling parent. After all, you want your child to feel happy, empowered, and supported. However, when you deny failure, neglect to point out mistakes, or tell your child they understand something they don’t, you are actually undercutting their long-term success. Although it’s tough, acknowledging mistakes today will lead to better outcomes tomorrow!
Number 3: A parent shifts their subjectivity to objectivity. The best way forward as a homeschooling parent is to try as hard as you can to manage your emotions and be objective when grading your child, pointing out mistakes, or even delivering a failing grade. Instead of denying the mistake or getting overly upset about it, shift your outlook so that “failures” turn into opportunities for growth.
You might see that Number 1 and Number 2 both have a commonality: they’re both backed in emotions. That emotional impulse comes from a place of love for your child, but in this case, it will do more harm than good. As a homeschooling teacher, it’s important to be as objective as possible when addressing failure.
When emotions get in the way, we’re often failing to see what is really going on with our children. Are they making simple mistakes? Or, did they never really grasp the concept? While we’re focusing on our emotions, we’re not facing the true nature of the “failure,” and seeing how to fix those errors for the next time.
So, how do we allow for mistakes? We look at failure as a learning experience, as opposed to a disappointment.
Take Elephant Learning as an example-- the platform I created. We measure students’ understanding with the Elephant Age, which took a lot of thought but is ultimately the ideal way, in my opinion, of measuring understanding.
Firstly, it only goes up, just like a regular age, because every human being on this planet is always in a process of gaining information, not losing information. This means that yes, even failure means gaining information, which is why an Elephant Age will never drop, no matter how many times a student gets an answer wrong. After all, every mistake is an opportunity for growth.
I created the platform not to look at failure as something wrong, but as a learning experience. Your 7-year-old son isn’t understanding multiplication? Our software takes that into account, and continuously puts those concepts he’s struggling with in front of him so he can face his individual challenges. His “failures” in the platforms aren’t failures at all-- but learning opportunities to teach him lasting principles.
Change your ways, not your kid’s ways.
Disclaimer: sometimes, emotions are in-line with “coaching”. For example, when a basketball team is down by two points and a coach is yelling to not make it go for three, I see that emotion as pretty in-line with the moment. But when your child is failing in math, you have to ask yourself if that same in-the-moment anger, frustration, or disappointment, is constructive or destructive.
Personally, I don’t believe any of these emotions have a role to play in effective education. From a coaching and education perspective, learning happens best when an educator can understand where a child is at, what gaps in understanding they might have, and how to build their understanding of concepts, without bringing emotions into the mix.
Praying that your kid performs “perfectly” is the emotion that’s blocking you from achieving your goal of objectivity around homeschooling.
Praying that your kid performs “perfectly” is deeming failure as wrong before understanding its values.
This logic won’t look at objectivity, which ultimately needs to be the decision-maker for your child.
Pretend you’re an AI tool like Elephant Learning. Your job is to analyze each child’s conceptual knowledge and understanding. You provide them with a measuring tool that shows them what they know, and continually place challenges in front of them that are meant to challenge them. Otherwise, they’ll stay at the same level the whole time, and never understand something.
I didn’t train the Elephant Learning platform to make decisions like a caretaker, with emotion and feelings behind it. It’s strategically there to be completely objective, without striving for a child’s perfection but instead encouraging challenges and, yes, “failures” to continue the upwards learning curves that failures typically bring.
When you think like a platform, you can notice that emotions are less of a deciding factor, and facts and figures really stand stronger.
You realize that the logic of math doesn’t allow for subjectivity and feelings. That the lack of emotions behind grading our children doesn’t mean we’re being cold or harsh to our kids. It means that we’re giving them the opportunity to fail, learn from that failure, and continue on with that newfound knowledge.
Being a homeschool parent is tough, but you do it because of your immense love for your child and care for their educational growth. When you are feeling emotional over the course of the educational process, remember that objectivity is the best way to set your child up for success.
Of course, you won’t be able to totally get rid of those emotions, nor should you. However, when you save them for later, and don’t project or deny failure, you are allowing your child more room to grow from their mistakes.
To wrap this all up-- what do you do if your child is failing at math, but you don’t want to bring emotions into it? I believe in the age-old adage: 10,000 hours. Continue them on a tool like Elephant Learning that’ll give them fragmented learning time that’s manageable and challenging. Give them those 10,000 hours in the way that works for them and that’s challenging, and remember that you shouldn’t be striving for perfection.
Emotions have their places, but teaching your child is not one of them.
Discover the work of Sophie Germain, one of the earliest woman mathematicians, who defied gender stereotypes to conduct her life’s work in number theory.
Discover how to teach math to a child with any learning style and why we learn best when we use all of our senses.
Blending math and creativity yields amazing results; discover how embracing creative subjects will help your student in learning math.