This blog is where we share our homeschooling journey. Our style is eclectic, employing strategies like notebooking, workboxing, and some relaxed unschooling I like to call organic or free-range learning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teachable Moments #2

When Do I Teach ______?

Part 2 of a 3-part series on using Teachable Moments to boost a child's learning experience.

In the last post I defined what a teachable moment is and gave an example every parent might face. Today we'll apply the concept of teachable moments to home school lessons.

So let's say the ShouldBe committee (aka mother-in-law, neighbor, school district, etc.) says that all children Should Be writing complete paragraphs by the end of kindergarten. Mom drills Johnny dutifully each day, trying not to panic when the calendar pages slip away and he hasn't even mastered half of the uppercase alphabet yet. Meanwhile, with each lesson he looks bored and distracted, kicks the table leg, and grows frustrated--maybe tearful--when he can't get his "A" right. Sound familiar? I've had it happen to me with most all of my kids at one time or another, and here's how a typical conversation might go during such a lesson:

Johnny: "Writing is stupid. When can we do that science project?"
Mom: "Not until you finish practicing these letters."
Johnny: "No! I hate writing!" (Followed by tears.)

In this instance, Mom overlooks a perfectly good Teachable Moment because of the ShouldBe committee. In fairness to Mom, this can be a tempting choice when such committees are quite vocal and official sounding about what our kids Should Be doing.

But let's take so-called experts, expectations, and fear of failure out of the equation for a moment. Who decided what a child has to learn when? How well did that person/committee know YOUR child? Will this change five years from now? You bet! They changed every time I enrolled one of my kids in a public school. So I take such guidelines with a grain of salt.

So ShouldBe's aside, the key to recognizing how and when to teach your child anything is to take the pressure off yourself. Our kids WILL learn. No kid goes off to college still wearing diapers, though when I had a resistant toddler I felt that way at times! Truly, the BEST expert on how and when your child will learn most effectively is...your child.

Let's review the above scenario again from a Teachable Moment approach.

Johnny is writing his letters, but Mom notices he looks bored, sighs, and kicks the table leg. She suspects this may not be a teachable moment for writing.

Mom: "How's our writing practice going?"
Johnny: "Not good. When can we do that science project?"
Mom: "Great idea! Here, let's put the writing supplies away and do it now."
Johnny: "Yay!"

Success! This mom is much more likely to find her son's school day productive, as he has an active interest in the subject being taught.

But wait! How will Johnny learn to write? What if I said he may not? Not for a while, anyway. How could any self respecting homeschooler make such a statement? Hang on, I'm about to get to the Promised Land!

Stay tuned for part 3 of my series, where I'll discuss why following the natural course of teachable moments does NOT mean leaving a child "behind" in their studies...regardless of what the ShouldBe's say.

Until then remember---in a homeschooling family, class is never dismissed! Keep on learning...


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