However, by trying to relieve them of the painful process of learning how to cut efficiently, I was robbing them of the opportunity to learn essential skills. Admittedly, even though I knew this was true, I still grabbed a scissors and helped them cut timeline pieces, even for their tenth grade history class (I’m a slow, impatient learner), all the while Hector Berlioz’s saying was dominating my thoughts: “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all of its students.”
The pace at which a child learns is as individual as her personality, which makes homeschooling such an ideal platform for education. Sometimes the student obtains information from a book, sometimes the parent is talking about the information, and sometimes the student is contemplating the information to turn it into useable, retainable knowledge. This final step of making the information her own is so easily passed by and overlooked. The process of learning is important to building the structure for the student to turn the information into knowledge that is useable for her in the future.
Take, for example, the process of learning to ride a bike. The student can read a book on different types of bicycles, the parts and gears, and the physics of how the balance and turning works. Then she can watch videos on systematic methods that lead to successful riding. Finally, she can hear testimonials of people who learned to ride, the mishaps they experienced along the way, and the joys of successful riding. Once she has completed this course, she still doesn’t know how to ride a bike because she hasn’t gone through the painful process of having every muscle in her body learn how to cooperate in order to balance, pedal, steer, turn and brake the bicycle.
Math is another area that we can see how this process is essential. Reading the chapter, watching the DVD, and going through the example problems doesn’t leave the student knowing the concept. She needs to work some problems from beginning to end on her own in order to understand the concept well enough that she can build the next concept upon it.
Just as I tried to rescue my boys from the painstaking activity of cutting out shapes with a scissors, it’s easy as parents to try to rescue our children from the painstaking processes of life that are essential for them to grow to the next level of relationships, decision-making, independence, and maturity. Since we have already been through the process and know “the best way” to do it efficiently, we would naturally like to share our knowledge and experience with her to save her the pain of having to go through the experience herself.
However, we are doing our child no favor by trying to rescue her from life’s processes. As an alternative, advising and encouraging them, telling them our experiences along our journey of maturity, and letting them know we intend to encourage them helps them to strike out on their own and develop life skills necessary for launching out on their own. Kathy Caprino believes this tendency to swoop in and fix things stunts their maturity: “When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with ‘assistance,’ we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help.” Rescuing children from the processes of life creates a TV mentality in them: this problem will be resolved, without consequences, in 60 minutes no matter what I do.
Falling behind the given schedule for getting through his math book because of a slower learning pattern, reading history out loud for a year because the in-his-head method was not resulting in sufficient comprehension, and spending late hours on social media resulting in crabby, slow mornings are examples of processes some students need to experience in order to mature. Painting her room that horrendous turquoise color, enduring a choice of bad hair dye, spending too much on the soccer shoes she outgrew mid-season, putting off studying and so failing a test, or getting kicked out of co-op class because of talking loudly are important processes in her growth toward adulthood.
The process of untangling from our children’s dependence on us is not a clear-cut, linear, checklist; each child is unique and each situation is different. However, for the most part, these processes of learning take more time if a parent steps in and rescues, just like my 20:1 ratio of cutting out timeline figures. However, by honoring the processes in a student’s life, the parent is focusing on the training for the student’s tomorrow rather than her happiness today.