“I’m not very good at delegating.”
When I wrote a post about the ways I didn’t live up to my own mental image of a “homeschool mom,” this fact was Item #3. I’ve always accepted it as one of my limitations. It wasn’t until I re-read it in that post that I stopped to question my own assumption.
It’s true that Darren is the one who can look at a chore, figure out which parts a child can do, and teach that child to do it. I find the whole process difficult and frustrating. For the first time, though, I wondered why.
After all, I want my children to know basic life skills, and I’m not a perfectionist who can’t stand to let someone else do a job. Even more puzzling—once I began to think about it—I am good at teaching my children to be independent workers. By the time they’re in middle school, they’re learning how to manage their time and self-start their lessons each day.
So why can’t I teach them to wash dishes, cook, or pack their own lunches?
Skimming my post again, I found the answer in the same list. Item #7 confesses, I don’t like planning lessons. I wrote, “I can’t easily take a big subject and break it down into manageable pieces.”
Aha! What seemed like two separate items are actually the same aspect of my personality.
Whether it’s teaching a history book or using a vacuum cleaner, I have trouble breaking down a big task into smaller steps. As far as life skills go, I can demonstrate how to do them, or I can give instructions; but doing both at the same time blows a fuse in my brain.
I wondered: What can I do about this? I reminded myself that I’ve always been more confident with the written word than the spoken word. What if, when I needed to “delegate,” I took fifteen minutes to write out the instructions first? Then when the time came to do the task, I could concentrate on demonstrating, while the instructions were already in front of us.
The next time it was Bookgirl’s evening to cook supper—something we’re trying to implement regularly—I did exactly this. I wrote out the recipe and steps just as I would say them if my brain fuses weren’t blown. I gave her the paper, then sat nearby while she worked so I could answer any questions.
And it worked—I successfully delegated supper to Bookgirl!
Since then, Bookgirl has cooked several meals, and I taught Gamerboy how to make pancakes. I wrote out instructions for Sparkler to find and print out a document for me. I’ve even delegated chores via pink post-it notes with instructions written out for each child.
When it comes to on-the-spot task allocation and instruction, that’s still Darren’s department. It comes much more naturally to him. However, I would like to revise my former article, if you don’t mind. It’s not that “I’m not very good at delegating.” It’s just that I have to approach it in a way that works for me.
And, after all, isn’t that the very spirit of homeschooling?
Photo Credit: iStock.