I was tutoring two boys in math while their mother prepared dinner. We had been working together in our homeschool for months and we were making good progress. She looked over her shoulder and said, “I wish you could help every night; I just can’t seem to work with them on this stuff.” I stored the comment for the rest of the session and planned to bring it up later.
Teaching Math is Like Teaching Your Child to Cut Steak
After her boys were done and doing what they were really waiting to do, playing Madden NFL, I brought up what she said. I pointed to the steak knife behind her and said, “When you’re teaching a child to cut with a knife you would be patient. You wouldn’t necessarily make them do it on their own always. Sometimes you would even use your hands to guide theirs so they get the feel of the correct way to cut. Teaching math is the same way. If you see them doing something wrong you don’t force them to try to figure out what the mistake is, you just help them redo it, knowing that eventually they’ll get it.”
Her mouth dropped open and she looked at the knife. “I’ve never thought of it that way before. I’ve been expecting them to do it by themselves and they’ve been resenting me for it.”
All of us, regardless of where our kids are learning academic knowledge, are homeschooling
All of us, regardless of where our kids are learning academic knowledge, are homeschooling. Our kids are learning things from us even when we’re not teaching. They’re learning based on our actions. They’re learning how to treat kids, what we mean by “clean,” and what to do when bored. I don’t know about you but I don’t always feel fully prepared to teach these lessons, I’m certainly not the best person to learn hygiene and room tidiness from. Ready or not, they’re watching us and emulating the things we do.
Just because you’re impatient at times doesn’t mean you can’t teach your kids or that you can’t homeschool your kids yourself.
Just because you’re impatient at times doesn’t mean you can’t teach your kids or that you can’t homeschool; for us and many of the homeschoolers I interact with, homeschooling has been one of the great joys of the parent-child relationship. Once we let go of the notion that instruction was the way to teach, it became more about a life-apprenticeship. And so what if you become impatient at times? You’re human. You can teach them about patience by showing them how you recenter yourself after blowing your lid.
Think of all the things we learn just by doing things with others. If you learned to do repairs around the house or cook meals, there’s a good chance it wasn’t through lectures. You may have gotten some lectures for messing up or not taking it seriously, but most of the learning happened while you were watching them do it and in the process of trying it yourself several times.
If you ever lose your way, think back to the steak knife and ask yourself, “How might I teach this concept if their physical safety was on the line?” That should help you slow down and give you the patience you need to see it through.
This article was written by Phillip Mott. Learn more about him on his website.