One of the very first things I teach my Hummingbirds is juggling.  There are lots of reasons for this, there is the fun factor of course but perhaps the main reason is to help them with mistakes. Learning to juggle is tricky and mistakes are made – a lot. I love the quote; “the man who never made a mistake, never made anything”.   Mistakes can be a good thing and learning how to deal with mistakes is a really important life skill to have.  The way I see it, there are no mistakes or failures, only feedback.  If a mistake is made, you look at it, take the feedback from it and adapt that knowledge to move on.

 That is why it is so important to allow your children to make mistakes with their homework. Homework is a method that teachers use to get feedback from their students.  It helps them to gauge whether or not some additional time or adjustments need to be made to their classwork. With a class of twenty or more students, teachers need that constant feedback.

 As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our child and for the most part we don’t want them to go into school with work that is going to end up scored with red biro and Xs.  So we help them with their homework.  I know parents who sit down with their children for every moment of homework, to the point where they use the phrases, ‘we do’ or ‘we start’ or ‘we are doing’, when talking about the homework as if the teacher had assigned it to both of them.

 I know that it is done to take the struggle and fear out of homework.  I know it is done out of love.  I know that the last thing those parents want to do is to make things harder for their children.  The thing is, without that valuable feedback, the teacher will assume that the child understands and underlying issues can go undetected for longer than necessary.  Then there is disappointment and surprise when the exam come around and the results don’t live up to expectations.

 So with the New Year, start a new routine with your child. Supervise homework by all means but allow mistakes.  Watch for patterns.  If the same mistake continues, intervene by drawing the child’s attention to it.  Awareness is the first step to making change – if you aren’t aware of something, how can you change it?  If the issue persists then bring it to the teacher’s attention. Most teachers I know want parents to do this.  Write them a note, sent them an email, schedule a meeting.  Don’t leave it until the annual Parent / Teacher meeting. Be your child’s advocate but give your child the freedom to make and learn from mistakes.

 The basketball superstar Michael Jordan (who also does dyslexia) sums it up beautifully:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Elaine Sparling is the creator of the Hummingbird Learning Method® and will be holding The Secrets to Successful Spelling in Adare, Tralee and Charleville in January & February.  Places are limited.  To book email or phone 087-2996054.


  1. Martina Breen says:

    What a brilliant article and sound advice indeed for any parent. Really looking forward to the Successful Spelling Workshop in Adare on January 18th.

  2. Arlene Gleeson says:

    Fab blog Elaine. Well done, great tips. Arlene Gleeson

  3. Both Ruby & I continue to enjoy making mistakes with our juggling & we are getting a lot more confident in making mistakes with our writing 🙂

    Thank you so much creating OUR Hummingbird Elaine x

  4. Geri says:

    Fabulous piece and makes complete sense! 🙂 Happy New Year to Hummingbird Learning Centre…

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