“Mom, teach me to tell time!” asked my seven year-old, Madeline.
I replied, “Okay Maddy, let’s get started.” What seemed like a fun thing to embark upon– turned out to be not so fun.
I had drawn the face of the clock; cut it out, and even used a clasp in the back to hold the hands so they could move (I wanted it to look really nice). After explaining to her all about my clock, and going into great detail about how to tell time– I quickly noticed, that her face had a look of impatience, and she looked cross.
I asked what was wrong, and she replied with, “I don’t get it!”
My face went from a grin to a straight face and I replied sternly, “Why not?”
I found out that when Maddy doesn’t understand something right away; she gets impatient, and doesn’t enjoy the process of learning at all. She just wants to know “without the journey”, and she just wants to know, “now!” Another example of this is the day she had picked up a huge chapter book for young adults; jumped up on the couch with the book on her lap exclaiming,
“I’m ready to read!”
I replied with a slight sarcastic tone, “Maddy, how about we go over sounds first?”
She looked at me like I was from another planet. “Mom, I don’t want to go over sounds, I just want to read!” Well, I thought to myself, this isn’t any fun! Through some trial and error we found that when she’s frustrated over something she wants to know, we need to wait and take a break from it until it comes more naturally to her. She’s twelve, now and loves reading. We host a book club once a month with all of her good friends and found it’s a great way to keep her love of reading alive.
I feel I should back-up and explain to you the one who challenged my traditional education, mindset. She is my oldest, and her name is, Abby. I feel I owe her a lot because she is who got me started on my non-traditional, approach to learning. She is laid back and can be very stubborn. She was not in a hurry to read or write at all; and at age five, this made me nervous, since this is one of the first things you start to teach your child! I felt I had to keep up with the school system or I was a complete failure. I had tried rewards such as stickers if she did her school work and punishment if she didn’t. For months I would try to make traditional learning look as exciting as I could; however, no matter how hard I tried, she would not write in a textbook or read out of a reader book. My attempt for being a teacher (in a traditional sense) was not working for Abby. I needed to reinvent myself! How was I going to make learning something enjoyable instead of making it a chore? I came across John Holt’s book, Teach Your Own, and it challenged the way I viewed learning. After applying it, I was sold! I noticed results right away. Instead of focusing on all the things she didn’t want to learn – we could now focus on all the things she did want to learn! When Abby was ready to read and write (at age nine), we did it together, and she loved every moment because she did it on her timing. No fighting or pulling teeth, now to me…that is true learning. Abby is seventeen years-old now and wow! What a ride. I look back at all of our learning adventures and can’t help but have fuzzy feelings. She is taking some classes that interest her for her senior year at a community college and has followed her true dreams. I know that she will continue to educate herself her whole life and that is what I wanted to accomplish most. To never stop learning.
My fourteen–year-old son, Taylor, is what you would want to portray as the “poster-child” for un-schooling. He was reading at age four and was basically self-taught. Being a self-starter he wanted the challenge of figuring it out for himself, only wanting me close by when he had questions. When he wanted (without any pushing from me) to write and learn cursive, he practiced with my guidance until he felt he had it mastered. He’s more task-oriented and one of the more “fun” learning styles. He’s one of those that loves educating himself and loves the fact he’s in control of it.
I have seven children and have found that you need to trust yourself to trust your children; they each have their own learning styles, though some are more fun than others, they’ll find their way if not controlled. You cannot make children love learning or learn for that matter. True learning comes from within… and I think that is how life is in general. We can only inspire. And remember: whatever their learning style—one is not better than the other. What this means for them, is that they can have fun learning, find their true talents and never stop learining. And as for me, I can relax and enjoy my children; as I help them find their true talents, learn and explore our world with them and continue to un-school the learning styles of the fun and the not so fun!
It’s not how much you know…it’s what you do when you don’t know.
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