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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

homeschooling for failure

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

Not long ago, I realized that one of the most important things I share with my kids is how to fail. Alot. To even look forward to failure. What? That sounds so counter-intuitive to many current models of education, where mastery is the goal. While I am not against knowing something inside and out, I do think there might be a better way of getting there than by drilling and memorization.  I tell my kids, if you are not failing at least some of the time, you are not trying anything new or pushing to grow. While failing because of carelessness is not championed around here, failing because of bold experimentation and creative play is.

A recent interest in knights and medieval fighting led us to trying to make our own bit of chain mail. We read how to make it, watched a video on how to make it and eventually tried many of our own methods. None of them worked. Or I should say, none of them produced a final piece that we were happy with.

What I was happy with, was that we were not attached to a perfect final product as the goal. Perfectionist tendencies melted away because there was real and deep engagement with the materials and the idea of how to join them into a pattern. We worked for an hour joining, rejoining, questioning and experimenting and in the end moved on to some new ideas that were inspired by the tools and materials.

I guess you could say we failed at making chain mail. But it is exactly the kind of failure I encourage! The kind that opens your mind and leads you in new directions.

What have you failed at recently?


  1. Love this! Have you read the blog Puttylike? She had a post with a very similar message awhile back:

    I applaud you for taking this approach with your kids! I wish my early education had been more like that and less full of grades and perfectionism. Oh well, never too late to start! :)

  2. Thank you so much for your post. You have opened up my eyes to something I have ignored for some time. Lack of knowing how to cope with failure is one reason for experiencing depression and low
    self esteem. God Bless

  3. Thank you very much for reminding us that it's okay to fail when one is trying something new.


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