Children love to do work that’s almost too hard for them, work that stretches them to their furthest abilities.
Last spring, I found myself struggling with the decision of whether I should receive training to be a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist.
I’ve admired this catechesis method for a long time, and the formation course sounded fascinating. But it would be very time-consuming, and as a working homeschooling mother of four with scanty free time, I just wasn’t sure that the time commitment would be worth it.
When I talked it over with a friend, she pointed out that the course would be worth doing even if I didn’t end up teaching the catechesis method anytime soon.
“The course is kind of like professional development for mothers,” she said.
So I decided to sign up, and sure enough, I learned so many things that have helped me in my vocation as a mother. The formation was especially useful in my work as a homeschool educator for my children.
One of the most interesting things I learned is a concept that comes from Montessori education: Children love to give their “maximum effort” in their work. They’re not interested for very long in doing work that’s easy for them; instead, they love to be challenged to do a task that is almost beyond their capabilities.
The principle of “maximum effort” was put to the test over the last few months as my family prepared for a big move. I was amazed at how well the principle worked.
Last week, my family moved to a town where many of my friends had moved before us, and we are thrilled to be in an area with thriving parishes and a great Catholic community.
Although I was excited about the move, I was really dreading moving with four small kids, 8 and under. Everyone kept saying how awful it would be!
It certainly was no picnic, but I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful and capable my older children were. They really did their part through all the chaos of packing.
My older children are 8 and 5, so not exactly at an age where I thought they would be very helpful. But I applied the principle of maximum effort, and they rose to the challenge beautifully.
Here are some of the jobs they impressed me by doing very well:
“Move your beds and the couch, and vacuum thoroughly behind them.”
“Get the coolers from the basement, and pack every single thing in the fridge and freezer in the coolers.”
“Put everything from your dresser inside this box.”
“Put tape on these boxes and label them with what’s inside.”
I thought these jobs would be too hard for them, but ironically, I think that’s exactly why they did them so well.
If I assign my kids an easy task, such as, “Pick up your socks off the floor” or “Put away your toys,” they don’t want to do it because it’s so easy and routine that they’re not interested. But these packing and cleaning jobs were almost too hard for them, and children love to give their maximum effort.
I do have to add that my toddler and baby were definitely not helpful, and dedicated their best efforts to undoing whatever packing and cleaning the older kids and I were able to accomplish. But even my toddler could be counted on to wipe down surfaces and throw small things in boxes, and she was thrilled when we assigned her these tasks.
Our big move is over, but going forward I’ll be taking this lesson with me. I’ll keep giving my kids work that’s almost too hard for them, that stretches them to their furthest abilities. So far, every time I do it, I’m pleasantly surprised at how capable they can be.