Helping Them Learn What They Live
I experienced something, but did I learn it? Raising 11 children, owning a business, serving in our church, I have learned that there is a huge difference here. Where this post actually had it's beginnings was in a comment Ben made, during a family night together. Ben takes a spanish class at the high school. I do German, Cyndy does Italian, Ben wants to learn spanish. Go figure. So he was describing to us how it works when he sits down at his desk at school. He said, "I basically sit down and my mind shuts off until the teacher finishes the class. His "grades" are OK in spanish, so I guess it works for him. But I asked him, why he attended the class at all ?
The "fam" knows that grades don't mean much to me, unless a child decides to play that game. If they choose to do the public school for science or language or music, then they are playing a different game than they play when they follow their curiosity and are self directed at home. Which ever game we agree on together, they are expected to excel at that game. If they play the home schooling game, activity, research, experiments, exploring, and excited "aha" experiences tell me the story. If it's another game, then we use those rules.
In either case, I have found it imperative to inquire as to what they are learning. "What did you learn in Sunday School today?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "What did you do in Metal Shop today?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "What did you learn today while we built the workshop?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "How was the Camp out?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "How did your scout meeting go?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "How did you do on your Spanish test?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise.
When we go on a family outing... "What did you enjoy most about this outing?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. "You seem depressed? What's up?" Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise. Listen, ask follow-on questions, listen some more. Praise.
Of course, I could go on. This is just a way of life around here. And sometimes, in the asking of follow-on questions, and listening some more, I get a chance to review their "conclusions" about what they learned from this little life experience. And occasionally, some real, learning happens.
I asked Sam, after a particularly tough day building our workshop, what he learned today. "I would have never thought to make sure that the trusses we were staggering the panel on were all centered as we put down the first row of roof sheeting. That is what I learned." I ask, "And what difference did that make?" "Well, if we hadn't checked, when we went to put on the next row of roof sheeting, they would not have fit and we would have had so much more work to do. Needless work." My response, "So why that is a pretty important step ?" I ask. "Because it saved time and made the building stronger" is the answer. Silence for a few seconds while this sinks in. "I am really glad you picked up on that. Another thing you learned was that you can benefit from the experience of others, namely your old dad. Right?" "Riiiiiiiiiight", he says. Silence. It sinks in. "You learned some great stuff today. I really enjoyed working together on this. I think it's turning out great. How about you?" "I am just excited to have a real workshop. And to be building a piper cub in there someday."
I think if our children ever read this Blog, they could add a number of comments about this kind of learning that goes on around here.
The point is, for us, we send our children out into the world, in a variety of settings, to experience it. But after the experience is over, HOME is where we gather to process it. Home is where we make sense of things they experience. Home is where we can put our spin on things, to make sure that they see things in perspective and in the proper light. And if they don't get it this time, they will be heading out into the world again and again, and we will be processing again and again. Finally they will hit that same place again, and we will ask the same questions again, and cover the same ground another time. And sooner or later, the light comes on.
We are grand parents now, and I can say for our married children, class is still in session, questions are still asked, and conclusions are still being reached on their own, as we help them learn what they are living.