Wednesday, October 5, 2016

{the radical art of homeschooling} process over product


Life is trying things to see if they work.
-Ray Bradbury


One of the hardest things is to move away from the over emphasis on final products. There is a time when it is important to be able to present a polished project for sure, but for much of their education, I try hard to focus on the process of learning and skill acquisition. True mastery and confidence comes from the ability to get deep and dirty with the content. We are always better for trying something and failing and I would go as far as to argue that a finished project does not mean that more was learned - no, it means learning has stopped and been wrapped up. Doors have been closed. And the amazing thing is, when you focus on the process, a lot of shit gets done as a by product. It is inevitable. 

Last fall, we rented a booth in an antique mall. It lasted a few months and we barely made enough money to cover the booth rental. Failure, right? Nope! I knew going in that at best we would break even monetarily. I also knew my kids would learn about contracts and scheduling, and heavy lifting and staging, and pricing and history and how to deal with people... the process taught them (and me) so much that will go into our arsenal of awesome and will inform us when we dream up another commercial venture. 


How to embrace process:

1. Look for it (and write it down) - I have journals filled with observations from when my kids were younger. Every time my confidence would waver, I would write down what we were doing. I journaled details about how they problem solved while digging a mud pit, how they built an argument while asking to make ice cream, how they taught each other skills, how they compromised on projects and how they showed kindness to others. So much of what is really good about homeschooling does not translate into traditional transcripts. So, learn how to make your own, even if it is just to calm your own anxious heart. 

2. Talk about it - Open a dialog about what you and your children are doing while you are doing it. When they are young, you can simply narrate what is happening. As they get older, ask them questions and show that you value the how as much (or more) than the final. Ask about their LEGO building strategies, how they thought up a dessert combination, ask how they do anything. And listen, really listen to their strategies, understand them and reiterate back to them what you hear. Explain how you are solving a problem at work or while fixing something or while dealing with a contentious person. As you recognize the processes of your daily life, reveal and share them with your children.  

3. Talk about your failures - Go beyond extolling the virtue of failure by using inspiring quotes by Thomas Edison. Explain and share the failures that made you who you are. Acknowledge your pain or embarrassment but also stress that failure is just part of the game. It is normal and necessary. Ask your family and friends about they failures and what they learned about them. Make failure-talk a part of day to day life. In recent years my husband  has shared the details of various job interviews he has gone on, where he was stumped, what he excelled on and then examined the corollaries of job offers (there was none!). I have shared and shown them my rejection letters as well as celebrated the successes of sticking with things. It is my hope that they will grow up ready to try hard, take a risk and fail.

Journal:

How do you encourage process?

What is your family culture on failure? Can you have a failure storytelling night - where you (and others) share their most devastating and embarrassing fails?

Document for an afternoon or an hour, your children engaged in an activity. Work your noticing skills and try to see what is really happening below the surface. 

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