Avoid the Snapshot Mentality

Oct 16, 2017
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Dear A—,

I hope all is well! As promised, I am writing to offer you any advice I can as you start out your journey with your new family and teaching. This is the first letter, but I hope our correspondence will continue for as long as it proves to be helpful.

The first thing I might suggest is to avoid the snapshot mentality. Don't look at any one particular moment in your own life, the life of your child, or the school day, and make it representative of an entire life. Aristotle famously said, "One swallow does not a summer make." One bad moment of parenting or teaching does not make you a bad parent or teacher. One bad moment for the child does not make him a bad person. There will be plenty of hills and valleys on this journey, so don't judge the entire way by any one of those hills or valleys. In fact, when I look back on the childhood of my children, I can remember a particular moment here or there that was absolutely awful in the moment—times when I would wonder how that child would grow up and stay out of prison! Now, however, I look at them and am overjoyed at what pleasant adults they have grown up to be, and I look back at their childhood and see it, overall, reflecting what they have become. Taken as a whole, they turned out exactly as I would have expected. Taken as snapshots, the individual moments can be overwhelming.

Along those lines, don't think of any one moment as the only one you have, either. You do not need to teach your student everything in one lesson. Don't dump everything you have in your head into his head all at once. You have days, weeks, months, years even to teach. Nor does he need to master the information, skill, or idea in one lesson. In fact, most things can't be taught and mastered in one lesson, so why bother even making that the goal? Give yourself and your student the time and the repetition needed to master the lesson. It will lead to much less stress for student and teacher. 

A—, I'm excited for you in your new adventure. I'm honored, moreover, to have the opportunity to share what I have learned over the years. 

May the Lord remember you in His Kingdom,


Matthew Bianco

Matthew Bianco

Matthew Bianco is a homeschooling father of three. All three of his children have graduated from their family's home school. The oldest has since graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD and works for the CLT. His second and third children are attending Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte, NC. He is married to his altogether lovely, high school sweetheart, Patricia. He is the author of Letters to My Sons: A Humane Vision for Human Relationships.

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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