“Aren’t you worried you won’t teach them something?”
There are a handful of questions I’m often asked, and this is one of them. Maybe you get it too. The person asking means well, but it’s still incredibly frustrating. I used to be worried about this, but not anymore. Now I’m content knowing that of course there’ll be things I don’t teach them. Of course I’ll miss teaching them something!
This can be a scary thought when you’re responsible for the education of your loved one. But, think about it further. Did you learn everything you needed when you were at school? Are there holes in your education? Are there things that are taught differently now? Are there facts you were taught that are now false? Of course there are. Pluto isn’t a planet any longer. Math is now taught differently to when I was at school. The geography of Europe is constantly changing. Of course there will be holes in our education; there are holes in every education.
Asking the above questions will usually silence external questioners, but doesn’t always work quite so well on that inner voice…the one that visits at 2 a.m. after a tough day when your little darling decided to forget everything you’ve done for the last few years and suddenly doesn’t know anything…those times when your critical relative starts firing questions at them trying to find where you’re failing, and even though they know all the answers, your child refuses to perform. That inner critic is far harder to silence.
I’ve found that the secret to keeping this one quiet is to know why we’re home educating. I can’t speak for you, but for us one of the primary reasons is to teach our children to learn. Today jobs are rapidly changing. People may change careers several times in their working life. Many of the jobs our children will hold don’t even exist today. If I teach my child nothing else, I want to teach them to learn.
If our kids know how to learn, then the holes in their education won’t matter. If they need the information at some stage, they’ll know how to find it. They’ll know how to find the right person to ask, how to find the book to read, or the right forum to post on. Instead of deciding they can’t do something because they don’t know how, their instinct will be to learn. If we teach our kids that, then the rest is in their court. Once they can do that, our job is no longer to teach them; it’s to come alongside and help guide them in their learning, nudge them where to go if they start to get stuck. Ask them questions to help them get on a path of learning for themselves. If we can do this, then our kids are ready no matter what the world throws at them.
So, how to we teach our kids to learn? I’ve thought of a few ways we try to model being a learner to our kids.
1. Be a learner yourself.
The most effective method we can use to teach anything is to model it to our kids ourselves. Whenever something needs to be done around the house, we learn how to fix it, or at least learn what seems to be wrong before calling someone in. If our kids ask us something we don’t know, we say that we don’t know, and then we look it up together. Just modeling that you can turn to books, experts, or the internet when you don’t know is arming kids with the resources they need to learn.
2. Step back.
I really struggle with this sometimes. There are a hundred things calling for attention, and the kids are taking forever to work something out. The temptation to get in and help them is strong, but I need to step back. If they’re talking about what we’ve been learning, I need to embrace the silence and let them search for the words themselves rather than putting words into their mouths. I need to let them try things on their own and let them experiment without my help. When we help too much, they start to want us to help with everything, and lose their confidence in trying things for themselves. Having to do things themselves forces them to try different methods to achieve their goal. And, they may come up with a better way than we use. Many things have multiple possible outcomes, and ours may not be the best, and it definitely won’t help them learn.
Failure can suck. But, it’s not the enemy. If we want to learn, then failure must be embraced. It’s our greatest teacher. When something fails we can learn what didn’t work and try again. So often our kids don’t get the opportunity to learn, because we never give them the opportunity to fail. We teach them that failure is something awful that must be avoided at all costs. But, it’s not. Failure is a part of life. Some of our kids take failure better than others, but by allowing them to fail now, we help them to learn some valuable lessons about life and about whatever they’re trying to do.
What do you think? Is teaching them to learn a way to conquer the fear that we’ll miss teaching them something? How do you cope with this question? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you disagree.