Monday, November 29, 2010

We learn a lot from things going wrong

One comparison that can be made between homeschooling and institutional schooling is that in an institution, presentation is everything. Since you don't have "real life," the theory is that you present the information in logical steps so that the student can properly learn. Even though this is totally opposite of how a child learns from their first day of life, somehow this is considered the best method in school. Great debates are waged, for example, over the order in which letter sounds should be taught. At least one author cautioned that emotional damage could occur to a child who didn't receive reading instruction according to his recommended sequence.

How does a child learn language? Do they start off hearing nothing of English until they reach a certain known level of cognition, and then they are sat down and introduced to how to conjugate "to be"? No, of course not. They absorb language from before they are born, and each day they acquire more and more context along with words, so language is effortlessly learned. Yes, corrections to our children's speech are necessary, but even without that, the tendency is to learn better and better speech.

How does a child learn self-control and discipline? Do they start off with no correction at all until they reach a certain known level of cognition (like many people recommend), and then one day they are sat down and introduced to the concept of "no"? Various pictures of objects, or video clips of actions, are displayed before them, preferable in a large group of age-mates, and they all learn to recite "no" in unison? No, of course not. They learn "no" (or should learn "no"!!) each day along with proper context, and consequences. In fact, we learned that our younger children learned a lot, before we knew they were capable, simply by watching the OLDER children receive discipline! (God sure designed efficiency into the family!)

But back to the institution. Years ago, a teacher friend cautioned, when she heard we intended to keep our children home from school and teach them, "That's fine as long as they have a quiet place to study."

Now, even as inexperienced parents, we saw some holes in that principle. We do look for organization and coordination in our day, and we LOVE quiet! However, there are benefits to learning in a real-life environment with the occasional (or frequent) interruption, discipline issue, plumbing emergency or smoke alarm malfunction which causes you to open all your windows on a day when its 20 degrees out, and have to load all the children into a running vehicle with heat because you cannot figure out how to shut off the beep which is emanating throughout the entire house.

When I was in grade school, there was a month in which the school received a series of bomb threats, and we were all evacuated into the back field of the school while the fire department searched the school top to bottom. It was several times a week. During the hours we spent in the yard, all "learning" stopped. The teachers were just trying to keep law and order. Books were left in the classrooms. There was no apparent thing to study. Nobody even took the time to explain the problem of the false threats, the procedure of searching the school, or the names of the weeds we were sitting on. Real life was an interruption.

What do we learn from things going wrong?

Well, most obviously, we learn how to go on when things go wrong, when we are inconvenienced, when things break and we have to make do, when illness or accidents happen. That is the real world. In fact, if we are trying to follow the Bible and place its priories ahead of man's priorities, we have MUCH to learn:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:2-8

Interesting that though wisdom is mentioned, it is patience that we read which makes us "perfect and entire, wanting nothing." In our family, we certainly need both.

We want to finish up the rest of our scheduling post (partly because of the benefit for us in reviewing how we got to where we are), but we LOST THE PHOTO we were going to use! Real life! But a memory that came to me was how when we started the schedule, it was hard to break the frustrated thought pattern when interruptions to the schedule come up.

That is real life. I loved how Teri Maxwell compared interruptions to the storms that come up, often bringing unexpected variations to normal peaceful seasons, and how we can learn to recognize these interruptions as from the Lord and learn in the midst of them (here is a link to a similar article she wrote on this topic). It does not mean the schedule goes out the window...not if we have prayerfully put that schedule together. The schedule still represents a normal day's priorities. But as we read in James above, the interruptions, trials, etc which God allows are STILL part of his will for our day.

If we are anchored in God's Word, not our emotions, we can learn to roll with the interruptions, walking in His Spirit which guides us moment by moment. We learn the character qualities of patience and humility too...which are the best foundation for all other learning!

We can learn a lot from things going wrong.

That is our prayer.

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