Parenting: Not All Learning Comes From Books


This fall, I’ll have two 10th grade girls and a boy in 3rd grade. The boy loves school and will pick up a reading comprehension workbook when he’s bored. His sisters could do anything academically, but are hoping to have a career that includes cute clothes and no Algebra...for now.

Soon I’ll be shopping for skirts and shoes and pens and calculators; maybe a lunchbox for the little one. Even though we homeschool, it’s a handy thing to have and he’ll want the Avengers one. One of the twins won’t give a thought to the first day of learning co-operative until the night before. The other will worry until she has a stomachache, but not to the point of throwing up because that’s even more embarrassing.

The textbooks are waiting. They know most of the kids who’ll be in their classes. They’ll learn Composition and Literature and Biology. But not all learning comes from books.

The conversation is open about friends, fashion, boys, media, and technology. Sometimes the discussions make me cringe. I’m not ready when they are, but I’m glad we’re talking. I'm glad to be able to impart truth so maybe they’ll recognize nonsense when they hear it.

We’ve talked about bullying (yes, homeschoolers have to). They know "Silence is Participation,” so they’d better speak up, and I’ve got their back when someone is bullying them. We’ve talked about bad men. "Strangers" aren’t the ones who hurt children; it's usually someone the kids know and the parents trust. My children have permission to offend anyone who suggests something weird, and know it’s not just alright to tell, but their responsibility.

I want them to know how to get along with difficult teachers. We’re talking about what makes a person [shudder] dateable.  They are pretty good at choosing friends and sidestepping drama when they see it coming. Their role models are typical—pop stars, superheroes, and…well, that’s about it. You know all of this is hard because sometimes I don’t know how to get along with their difficult teachers. Sometimes in life you can sidestep and land in the drama. And I can advise, but the best guy or gal on paper can be a jerk.

We aren’t struggling much with clothes, because they are still shopping with my money. I hope they know not to judge someone by their clothes. But I watched a pair of simple black pumps transform my wallflower into a confident lady. It really woke me up to the transforming power of a look. We are working on deciding what are ‘must-haves’ for smart girls on budgets. The boy doesn’t care what he looks like as long as he can run and play comfortably. He has sisters to worry about that for him.

In 33 months, the girls will graduate and their brother will be in middle school. Academically, they’ll probably be ready for the challenges of college. I’m hoping they’ll give me a good grade on getting them ready for the challenges of life.

How do you help your children be thoughtful and responsible adults?

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Maggie Sutliff is a wife and the teach-at-home mother of three children—twin girls and a boy. She is an advocate for adoption, pet rescue, and coffee and against racism. She blogs a little at


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