I Need to Step Back, Shut My Mouth, and Let My Children Observe

Last school year we took an impromptu “field trip” to a local park that also has a small, but very nice, zoo (this is where I snapped this shot of the eagle).

When we would stop to look at the animals, I would read the sign with all the information on that animal out loud, and then ask my daughter questions- what do you think this animal eats, what is its habitat like, etc.

I was quite proud of myself, frankly. We were very new to homeschooling, and here I thought I was doing a great job of providing an educational opportunity that was fun, and getting her to think become engaged by asking her questions instead of simply reading the sign and moving on.

It wasn’t long before, instead of answering the question I had posed, my daughter heaved a big sigh, looked at me very crossly, and said, “Mommy, do we have to learn something EVERY time we stop to look at an animal?

I was taken aback. Okay, I admit it, I was more than taken aback, I was kind of crushed. Way to damage my pride! So I shut my mouth and sulked while she skipped around and checked out the animals.

But when I had a chance to reflect on it later, I realized that I had, frankly, been ruining her fun. I made a mistake that I think is pretty common for first time homeschoolers. I had read a lot about how “any activity can be a learning opportunity!” and took it a little too much to heart. Yes, any activity can be a learning opportunity, but that doesn’t mean that everything is a teaching opportunity. Our children don’t need or want us hovering over them spouting out facts and asking “thought-provoking” questions every time they talk a walk or find a cool bug. Sometimes they need to be allowed the freedom to just observe unfettered; it’s amazing how much they can soak up when you think they’re just playing around.

This was one of my first big homeschooling lessons. It’s certainly not one I’ve perfected, but I do try to be more mindful of when I need to step back, shut my mouth, and let my children observe and have fun on their own.

Katie lives in Indiana with her husband and three daughters and blogs with shocking irregularity at Just Another Catholic Mom.

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. Jimmie says

    Great insights! I too tend to over-analyze things and ruin the moment. Makes my husband crazier than my daughter, though.

  2. Luke says

    Very good point. There is joy to be found in learning… may our teaching never get in the way [smile].


  3. Karin Katherine says

    That is such a good point! I think all home educators are guilty of doing this—at least once!

    We should be careful that our enthusiasm for teaching doesn't ruin a love of learning!

  4. Rana says

    I have been known to do this too. I'm finally getting it. Unless my kids ask me a question just keep my mouth shut and enjoy the ride.

  5. Jenny says

    That is a very good point! I've done that as well, but have found that my daughter will ask questions if I don't talk about it first. So I try to step back from it and let her take it all in.