When Learning Hurts – Turning the Struggle to Learn Into a Triumph
There it was – a new book waiting to be cracked open. I could hardly wait. The exhilaration of learning something new or being there when enlightenment happens is sheer joy. Yes, I am a bona fide nerd. Proud of it. A book worm when I was growing up, learning captivated me with the fascination of an explorer. Learning has always been an unquenchable, passionate love of mine, so I longed to pass this love of learning on and join in the learning adventure my children would be embarking upon.
I first heard the word “homeschooling” when my oldest was in my womb. I was instantly intrigued. The LORD confirmed a calling to this new learning expedition, so I began the work of home education . . .
I set out on the journey of homeschooling innocently enough. Feeling much like a pioneer, I quickly began to acquiesce to my new standing. I was one of them. The fearsome home educator. My love for books and learning urged me on, but it was my desire to give my children character and the faith I had that fueled my desire. Character was not going to be something that I could just teach them – they needed to see my live it out. Little did I know how home education would test my character and end up giving ME the education of a lifetime, as well as them.
My first child asked me to teach her to read and learned to read by age three. The first time she read to me, I wept. She was insatiable in her desire to learn, I had to hide workbooks from her so I could catch a break. With such a wonderful beginning to home education, it seemed likely that this would be the case for all of my children.
As I had such success with one curriculum, I thought I would simply use the same methodology for my second child, but was distressed when the results were not the same. Trying to avoid comparing, I just tried various curricula and attended seminars to try and unlock her potential and determine what would work best with her learning style. I never wanted her to be aware that learning was challenging for her. I made games, made sure she could not see my frustration, and finally, after much repetition and briefly hiring a tutor, by age 9 she was reading.
In the course of that time, two of my other children after her were also reading. I founded a home educational organization and led it for eleven years in an attempt to provide an excellent education for all of my children. This worked well for our circumstances, but over time it became apparent to my second daughter that she was different.
I never wanted my children to compare themselves to others, but that does not keep them from doing so themselves. My daughter would spend countless hours trying to comprehend her schoolwork and wondered why she could not do as well as the others. I desperately hunted to find something she excelled at and slowly adapted curricula and testing to try and make learning easier, but the LORD kindly revealed that comparison to others is focused on the wrong goal. We were not created to be exactly alike. Education is not a one-size-fits-all solution. We discovered that Comparison to others who are each uniquely made is foolish, but comparing to the progress each individual makes is priceless.
A Proper Measure
Comparing is virtually impossible to avoid when students are all exposed to similar curricula in a homeschool co-op setting. Exams became a place of pain where she would constantly feel inferior and try to hide her struggles. She lived in constant fear of discovery – that she would be found out to be less smart than those around her. Despite my attempts to encourage her that everyone learns at their own pace and that she should not compare with others, the pain in her eyes revealed that the struggle to learn hurt – deeply. This is when I realized we had to find a new measure. The measure she used made her always feel as if she fell short.
Throughout all of my children’s childhood, I would provide devotionals and encourage them to pray for wisdom. My second daughter found her solution through this provision. She began to fervently ask God for wisdom and consumed every devotional I gave to her. Slowly, over time, her measure changed from man’s perception of success to God’s. If she could be a young woman of wisdom rather than just knowledge, this was of much more worth than being a perfect student. The goal of education was not perfection, but to ensure that learning was taking place at whatever pace it took.
Constantly feeling like a failure over time can damage our children’s souls and make them doubt their worth. My daughter’s grades were excellent, but she still struggled with worth. She learned how to succeed in assignments, but testing plagued her. God mercifully revealed that her worth was in the wrong place, based upon performance rather than on character.
It was not just my daughter who struggled with her processing disorder. I did, too. My heart ached to see her struggle. I could not help her. I did not want her to have a label that would make her feel limited in any way. How could something I love so much cause her such pain?
I never pursued a label. I figured we would eventually ‘catch up’. When it came time to graduate high school, though, it became apparent that she needed answers – not to limit her, but to understand and have a target to aim at and overcome. We went through testing and pinpointed her learning pains. Where a label seemed minimizing before, it became a beacon of hope. No label would define her, but it could help us to define the problem.
Learning has not been the picture I thought it would be, but we would not have the beautiful character earned in the process. That was the original goal, wasn’t it?
Denise Pass is an author, speaker and CCM worship leader from Fredericksburg, VA, where she lives with her amazing husband and 5 children, whom she home educated. Denise is passionate about writing devotions and music that foster unshakable hope and healing in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Her ministry umbrella, Seeing Deep in a Shallow World seeks to be a compass grounded in Scripture and a place where real problems meet real, transparent faith and needed answers in Scripture.