"People don't do what you expect, but what you inspect."  When a friend quoted this to me, I was startled, but had to agree. It succinctly stated a truth that I had learned through experience: kids need intentional guidance and immediate feedback to improve at their tasks.  This seems obvious, but somehow, I could easily forget this on a busy day!

Through several stretching experiences, my three children taught me how important it is to observe their schoolwork, their chores, and even their interactions with others in order to discern challenge areas and encourage positive growth.

1. Reviewing School Work

Very early in our homeschool adventure, my oldest daughter chose an extraordinarily busy week to do the worst work of her young life! My husband was out of town, and my parents needed help as my mom was seriously ill. In addition, my two preschoolers were energetic and curious, continually creating chaos.  As I was dealing with these situations, my daughter was doing her schoolwork, or so I thought. Later that week, I finally sat down and began glancing at her writing workbook.  I could not believe this negligent work came from my bright daughter!  I was dismayed to see her sloppy, almost illegible writing. Picking up her math, I saw that she had rushed through it, not taking time to borrow on her subtraction. And many responses to her reading questions were not only wrong, but also silly! What had happened? Usually, she was meticulous, so this was discouraging.

Typically we would review and discuss her answers right after she completed her work, but my busy week had delayed this routine. I realized that I was partially to blame for her poor work. So, I initiated a new rule for me!  I declared that certain subjects must be reviewed each day. What a wonderful difference this made!

As I implemented this rule over the years, I discovered that it created a much more positive and motivating educational environment. My kids wanted to see how well they did on their work, and if there were mistakes, they could self-correct while the information was fresh in their minds.

2. Overseeing House Chores

Learning the value of inspecting was also vital to teaching household tasks. When our children were young, we set up chore charts, giving each child various responsibilities such as setting the table, loading the dishwasher, sweeping or vacuuming the floor, and taking out the garbage.

One humbling experience occurred when our daughter first learned to sweep the floor. We had guests over for dinner, and after eating, she was working steadily on her sweeping. As I was visiting with our guests, I turned around to watch her sweep her pile under the stove! 

This again taught me the importance of regularly following up as we taught a new chore. After the children had mastered the chore, I would do spot inspections to ensure that they continued correctly until good habits were built. Not only is there satisfaction in a job done well, but also there is great pleasure in rewarding good work! Thankfully, over time, my kids became truly helpful in the home.

3. Encouraging Social Interactions

As our children grew older, I noticed another growth area. After listening to several awkward interactions my kids had with both adults and children, I realized that they could benefit from practicing conversational skills. So, through modeling and role-playing at home, we learned the basics of carrying on a conversation and building friendships. Then, before having company or going to gatherings, the kids could brush up with a few warm-up questions or handshakes. Later, if convenient, I might listen as they interacted with others and occasionally prompt them if they were struggling. This extra practice gave them confidence and helped them make friendships and interact with adults more easily.

As a mom who desires the best for my kids, I found consistent follow-up added joy to our home and aided in developing good habits and relationships. We know that God wants us all to do our best work, and evaluation incentivizes the best in all of us. So, I dedicated myself to become the “inspector general” in our home and created an environment filled with purpose, clarity, and organization.  Even better, as we reviewed their work together, my children and I strengthened our relationship. Time together listening, chatting, and encouraging one another strengthened our family love. So, I learned—if I faithfully inspected, I would indeed receive what I expected … as well as create a happy, love-filled home.