This post is part of the Blog Carnival being hosted over at Mama Squirrel's Blog this week. Go check it out.
I don’t remember how to do algebra; I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or identify classical music by composer or period. I don’t like to paint, I have a black thumb, and I can barely sew on a button, much less make an article of clothing from fabric on a bolt. I don’t grind my own wheat, grow my own vegetables (very well) or have the slightest idea how to milk a cow, or bake bread from scratch.
In spite of all these inabilities, I teach my children at home. Let me tell you how.
I believe in learning right along with my children. If I don’t know how to do it, then we look it up. If I can’t figure it out even after looking it up, we ask for help.
You might find this approach a bit haphazard or even downright frightening, but let me ask you a question. Remember that teacher you had in high school biology, the one who had the anatomy of a frog memorized and could recite all the names of the bones in the body in alphabetical order? How much did you learn from her? How much do you remember? I can tell my kids facts all day long, but if they are not part of the learning process, if they are not engaged, if they don’t have a curiosity for the information, it’s not going to stick.
I want to plant the seed of curiosity in my children, a desire to find out more, and the ability to know where to look. This is more than teaching. This is, as the old homeschooling adage goes, the lighting of a fire.
Children need to see that not knowing something is not bad, it is not failure. It is the beginning. It is the place to start. They learn this by watching their parents learning. My kids have watched me look up gardening on they internet, ask the guy at the gardening store, and finally try it myself. They have seen a lot of failure, and after some tweaking and more research, some success.
Children need to see that it is okay to ask for help. We don’t have to be good at everything, but to not try is a shame. My son has an algebra teacher. We struggled with upper math for 2 years before we sought help. Now he has a wonderful teacher who speaks his language mathematically and everyone is happier. My two dyslexic children went to classes for 2 years to get the proper help they needed that I did not have the training to offer. There is no shame in asking for help.
This job is hard and this job is time consuming, and no one ever said we had to go it alone. We have chosen to keep charge over our kid’s education and not turn that responsibility over to the state. That does not mean that we have to single handedly teach our children everything they need to know, in fact, that is an impossibility.
One of the things I have noticed about those veteran homeschoolers, the ones that have made it all the way, is that they have figured out the concept of delegation. Life is about learning all the time. When they are young we have to hold their hands and take them step by step through the process, but as they age, we can let go of that hand sometimes. We can stand back and let them walk ahead. We can give them that light and watch them run with it.
As my oldest is getting closer and closer to graduating from our homeschool, I am seeing with increasing clarity, how much he still has to learn, as well as how far he has come. I am starting to understand the importance of instilling that love of learning in him. In many ways, the love of learning is even more important than the learning itself. I will not always be around to make sure he has done his homework, or finished the project. He needs to have that fire in him. He will need that persistent desire to grow and learn and strive always for something better.
The cliché is right; education is caught, not taught.