Building a Fortress of Encouragement

May 10, 2019 | Posted by Terra


"Sometimes we feel like if we can't do it perfectly, we won't have success. The truth is, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing imperfectly. So go ahead and just do your best." – Andrew Pudewa

This much-needed truth by Mr. Pudewa was recently posted to our IEW Facebook page, and I undeniably needed to hear it again! Perfection is unattainable; it is non-existent. Expecting perfection can halt progress altogether. Continually I remind myself and my students, “Just do your best.” My best likely looks different than your best, and that’s okay! And that extends to my own children, who each have their own “bests.” Sadly, comparison is another thief that tries to sneak in with perfectionism. Keep them both far away.

Recently, I was chatting with my middle-school daughter, and we were discussing her experience with me as her editor. Laughing about past frustrations with essay writing, she expressed how upset it made her when I would edit her papers during our first couple of years with IEW’s theme-based books. She described the markings on her paper and the feeling of loss at the end because she felt like it was no longer her essay. She lamented, “You would mark it all up and make suggestions. It really made me mad!” Unfortunately, I was committing the deadliest of the “Four Deadly Errors,” overcorrecting, and it was causing agonizing distress. I thought to myself, “If I don’t show her the right way, who will?” With the best intent, my perfectionistic tendencies were hurting both of us.

What I was supposed to be doing was only to look for the items on the checklist. She was doing her best with where she was at in her learning at that time. She was following the checklist. She had her awkward -ly words, strong verbs, quality adjectives, and clauses included, albeit imperfectly. Did I cringe at the use of an adjective that was awkwardly used? Yes, I did. However, I saved precious time and unneeded tears by simply counting the style elements and adding up the points! We can face awkwardness later when she is more comfortable with inserting her style. Letting go of perfection and instead celebrating my student’s progress is the best thing I could have done in my homeschool. An unexpected bonus is that it has even strengthened our relationship.

Ultimately, my goal is to praise my students for what they have done well and just work on one area of improvement at a time. I don’t do it perfectly, but I try to build a fortress of encouragement and set goals they can reach.


Terra Tyler and her husband, Jon, have been married for sixteen years. They currently homeschool their two daughters and are involved with Classical Conversations. Terra comes from a family of small business owners in Tulsa, OK. She has worked in the field of early childhood and actively been involved with the children's ministry at their home church for the past fifteen years. Terra enjoys being the lead learner in Math, Latin, and Writing, but can often be found knitting, crocheting, or drawing with her girls. Describing her experience at IEW, Terra shares that "Working at IEW has proved to enhance our homeschool experience as I am surrounded by rich writing and language resources as well as brilliant minds!"

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