I did it again.
This happens once in a blue moon around here, so I should have learned my lesson by now. But I still manage to blow it every time it happens.
Studies get going at such a steady clip; the children and I get into the groove. Do a math lesson. Tear out a grammar sheet. Correct your mistakes. Keep going forward. Before you know it, the students are hurtling toward their goals of finishing the book before birthdates.
Another day, another worksheet. Such a simple plan.
Until one day, we hit a brick wall.
This morning, I corrected Sweetie Pooh’s grammar, and the page was quickly covered in red. My pen bled all over his worksheet as I moaned exasperation. “Hey! What do you do if someone is speaking?”
He looked up from his cyphering with a glazed expression in his eyes. I motioned him to come over, and he stumbled toward me, shaking his head clear of numbers and desperately trying to change gears.
“Um, capitalize the first word?”
“Quotation marks!” I intone decisively. “Remember when we talked about this yesterday? And what goes before the last quotation mark?”
“Um … a capital letter?”
“Do you pay any attention when I teach you anything?” And thus began the tiraid. Poor guy stood there and took it, too. Five minutes of lecture on listening to Mommy’s teaching, then I gave him back the paper to redo. A glance showed me it was still wrong.
“Let me show you the first sentence,” I said. I huddled over him and read the sentence, emphasizing the contraction that was missing an apostrophe. Then the title that was not underlined. Then the name of direct address that was missing a comma. Then we were finished with sentence one. Sentence two was no better.
After 20 minutes, we were half finished and still had another page to go. “Don’t you remember any of these punctuation rules?” I asked him.
“Mommy,” he answered meekly. “I really don’t. I’m trying so hard, but this is … hard.”He put his little pencil down and covered his little brown face in his little hands.
I suddenly realized he was only eight years old.
And only barely eight. I had forgotten that this grammar book had been written for someone 2 years older. Poor boy. He had mastered “third grade grammar” months before, but his work ethic had outpaced his mental capability. And then I had treated him like his older brother and sister, expecting him to perform beyond his years. That was very unwise of me. That is provoking my child.
I put my evil red pen down and apologized profusely to my son. I explained to him why I was sorry – that I had not taken into account his ability, and that he was doing his best. I had no right to chastise him for working hard and making mistakes on something that was above his grasp. I asked his forgiveness, and he gave it to me.
And we threw the grammar paper in the recycling and saved the grammar workbook for later. In the meantime, his new daily assignment is to copy from the Original Blue Back Speller in his neat handwriting and to read extra in his library books. That will keep his mind growing and healthy until he is ready for more vigorous punctuation, conjugation, and diagramming. Poor guy.
There is a detailed discussion on how to use Webster’s Speller here. You will also find a link for a free download on that page. I recommend buying a physical copy of the book if you can, though. My children and I love ours and cherish it.
But I love and cherish my children more. May I learn to teach them gently and wisely.