By Liz Mallett
As a parent, my goal is to raise loving, humble, and functional children. I plan exciting field trips for them. I research the best, most engaging curriculum that I think my boys will enjoy. I spend more time planning their social calendar than I do my own. Educational toys, games, and puzzles fill our classroom. I spend days creating detailed lesson plans and guarding them dearly. I feel compelled to sit next to each child while he works, so that I can correct each and every mistake. I come running if either child even seems to have a question. Virtually each and every moment of their education is thoughtfully planned and executed. And I am exhausted.
No one told me how time consuming homeschooling would be. I had no idea that I would constantly worry that I am not doing enough. I did not know that my kids would get sick of me trying to help them. Then it hit me–I am robbing my kids and myself of the joys of homeschooling. By my over-involvement, I am not leaving my kids room for self growth. How can I expect them to be industrious, hard-working and resilient if I am always there to plan, prepare and rescue them along the way?
This high level of involvement is called micromanagement and it is a nasty habit which often rears its head in the homeschool classroom. Instead of adding to our children’s educational experience, are unwittingly robbing them of it?
10 Signs that You Are A Homeschool Micromanager:
- Repeating yourself.
- Constantly checking to see if work has been done.
- Scheduling every moment of your child’s day.
- Obsessing over lesson planning.
- Doing things for your children that they are capable of doing themselves.
- Intervening when you sense your child is frustrated.
- Making everything an “educational opportunity.”
- Thinking that your kids are whiny, lazy or lack motivation.
- Believing that the more involved you are in their academics, the higher your kids level of achievement will be.
- Judging your own self worth by your kid’s achievements.
I was guilty of all of these. If you see yourself in those descriptions, I encourage you to spend some time examining your heart. Micromanaging generally fills a need to control. Your degree of micromanagement is in direct proportion to your insecurities. I had to ask myself: What am I worrying about? What is making me doubt myself and my children so intensely? Doubt is a device of Satan. He hopes to ruin the relationships I have with my children. He wants me to doubt that God is in control and he is betting that I am going to throw in the towel if homeschooling gets too intense.
Self-Reliance is a Gift We Give
Other than displaying a lack of faith in God and in our children, micromanaging has devastating consequences in our kids as well. In younger children, over-involvement sends the message that we do not think they are capable. Setting them up for a lifetime of questioning their own abilities and instincts, micromanaging takes away the very things we are trying to foster in our young children: ingenuity, persistence and self-worth. Self-reliance is a gift we give our children. If your child is lazy or a constant whiner, complaining that he “can’t do it,” realize that perhaps you have created this monster by continuing to ride to his rescue.
Most parents lie to themselves and think they are only helping so much because their kids are young. I did that! I thought that as my children mature, my level of involvement would decrease. Micromanaging was an addictive habit, but I was determined to kick it.
Teenagers do not respond well to a micromanaging parent. According to psychologist John Rosemond, “Some people argue that some teens, because they’ve demonstrated a serious inability to make good decisions, need to be micromanaged. However, the very teen who needs it won’t submit to it, and the teen who doesn’t need it won’t submit to it either. Therefore, micromanagement does not work with teens. Period.” When you try to control teens, you will get push-back in the forms of deceit, unnecessary conflict, communication problems and ultimately disloyalty.
Master of the Scholastic Ship
I did not overcome my micromanaging habit until my kids were teens. Regarding schoolwork, micromanaging had left them unable to complete tasks on their own or manage their lives efficiently. The constant back-and-forth over homework details was leading to homeschool burnout for all involved, so I relegated myself to the role of advisor and let my teens be the masters of their own scholastic ships.
If college is in your student’s future, bear in mind that parents who exert high levels of control over a young adult’s college decisions communicate the same powerful message of mistrust and a lack of confidence. These kids may not feel like they are capable of acting autonomously from parents or making grown-up decisions on their own. This often leads to the Boomerang phenomenon- where adult children move back home with their parents because it is safer, easier and all their decisions are made for them.
Now I’ve got your attention, eh? You realize that you are a micromanager and want to know how to stop. The good news is, both you and your students will be much happier once you implement your new teaching style.
Break the day into 30 or 60 minute segments. Teach for 10-15 minutes using these four steps:
- First, you do it FOR them.
- Then you do it WITH them, explaining yourself as you show them how to work a problem.
- Next, you watch them do it, and have them explain to you what they are doing (correcting them if they make a mistake).
- Finally, they do it completely on their own. Commend them for catching on so quickly, then WALK AWAY. Let them do the rest of the assignment on their own.
Let them know what the time limit is, set a timer and walk away. Now is when you tend to your other business. What you may discover is that you have more personal time than ever once you stop thinking that every problem your kids encounter is yours to sort out. When the timer goes off, return and check over their work. Allow them a few minutes to make corrections, then move on to the next subject and repeat the process. Teaching this way minimizes the parent’s involvement and maximizes the student’s responsibility. Once students realize that they are capable of solving problems on their own, they begin to ask for help less often.
Give Them a Student Planner
If you are homeschooling teens, explain the monthly or yearly deadlines, give them a student planner and let them plan their daily schedule. Check in with them bi-weekly to see that they are staying on track, but resist the urge to q
uestion them throughout the day. Having a parent reminding and nagging them is only going to cause push-back. If, upon checking his progress you discover that your teen is not performing up to par, provide a meaningful consequence that translates into the real world. What would happen if a boss discovered that his employee is behind schedule on a project? The employee would be required to work overtime until he is back on schedule. Forgoing social activities in order to get caught up on assignments is a meaningful consequence in the mind of teenager.
No matter what age your homeschool student is, take a hard look at your level of doing for your children and see if it needs to be modified. I had to learn to let some things be good enough. The breathing space that created for all of us was tremendous blessing in our homeschool. Remember the inspirational words of Charlotte Mason, “Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind.”
Liz Mallett lives in Arcadia, Oklahoma with her husband, their two teenage sons, four dogs, two cats and a smattering of chickens. Having homeschooled her boys for thirteen years, she now finds herself in the role of “veteran” homeschooler, mentoring new homeschool moms on their journey. She is a parent coach, blogger and wanna-be Cajun chef. You can find her at www.lizmallett.com or by email at ParentCoachOK@yahoo.com.