Interesting Stuff

If You Want to Learn Something, Teach it… If You REALLY Want to Learn Something, Teach it to Children

teach-childrenOver the summer my wife and I decided to make yet another major change in our lives: to homeschool our children. This wasn’t an easy decision even though it had been something I wanted to do for a long time now, at least, until it turned out that I would be the one to do most of the work. 😉

Anyway, despite the reasons why we choose to do so, we dove in head-first, spent hundreds of dollars on a variety of books, totally re-arranged our schedules and lives, and subsequently began to regret our decision just a few days into the school year. Eventually things got better, we settled in, and most importantly, my wife and I–and even the kids–seem to enjoy homeschooling now.

Regardless, the purpose of this post is about learning and teaching and I can honestly say that I have a whole new respect for teachers. To have the patience to teach 20-30 or more children a day, five days a week, over and over again… well, that’s simply amazing since it’s difficult enough doing so with two children I know very well.

In my opinion, it’s one thing to learn something on your own, it’s yet another to teach an adult, and it’s a whole new ballpark to teach it to children. For example, if I wanted to learn how to fish, I could read books, watch videos, and certainly get out and try what I’ve learned. Eventually I would figure it out (or not), hone my skills, and over the course of months or years (and probably a lifetime) I would get pretty good at it.

Fortunately, other adults can learn from my experience and I can teach them all the things I know, the tricks I’ve learned, where the best fishing spots are and so on. As such, they would get the benefit of what I know. Moreover, when talking with another adult we make many assumptions. We assume, for example, that they understand fish breathe underwater and that hooks only snare when fish bite them. We can also relay information rather quickly such as stating when the best times are to catch fish or the best lures to catch certain types of fish. Adults may not remember everything they’re told or what the reason was but it wouldn’t then take much effort to get them to understand and remember again… this is not so with children.

Children–especially young children–on the other hand, take a lot more patience, effort, explanation, and re-iteration to say the least. I’m actually shocked at how difficult this really is. I’m sure this is normal and as they get older it will be easier to explain concepts and ideas but, even then, it can be a chore. Sticking with the fishing example, very young children, therefore, might not understand even the simplest of ideas like how fish breathe underwater or that a fish must bite the hook to get caught. Sure you would explain it but would they get it? Will they remember? Do they care? Who knows! I can say now from personal experience that kids can “zone out” so quickly it’s not even funny.

As for what the teacher gets out of it, well, that depends on what’s being taught, how much they already know about the subject, and who is being taught. For instance, if I’m a firearms instructor then teaching the basics about firearms safety probably isn’t going to help me learn them any better. If, however, I’m attempting to teach some advanced combat maneuvers that I might have recently learned myself then just the act of teaching these maneuvers to other adults will help me better understand the “why” and “how” of what I’m teaching, even if I’ve only just learned them myself. As such, I’ll better learn the maneuvers myself. See what I’m getting at?

Like I said, teaching advanced combat maneuvers to other adults will not only help them learn but help me as well. Now, if for some reason I’m attempting to teach the same maneuvers to children (who knows why) then I may need to go about it in a whole different way. I would probably need to stop a lot more, explain things more thoroughly, and have them practice over and over while I correct their actions over and over. Therefore, I would need to REALLY understand what’s going on, be able to explain the “how” and “why” so that even a child may understand, and be ready, willing, and able to correct them at every turn and then do it again and again.

Though I’m not teaching my children advanced combat maneuvers in our homeschooling lessons, I can already attest that teaching them is a chore that takes plenty of explanation and more patience than I anticipated. I often find myself stopping after every few sentences, asking them what I just said, what it means to them, requesting give me an example, and so on. In so doing I can judge whether they seem to grasp the material or not. And, when they don’t, I need to figure out how to help them grasp it, something that most teachers are probably far better at doing then I ever will be.

And, even in the short month’s timeframe that we’ve been homeschooling, I can honestly say that simply by the act of teaching my own children basic fundamentals about being literate, for example, that I’ve re-learned more about these subjects than I remember learning in the first place! Heck, even just a month ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a complete predicate was or even how to multiply fractions (without stumbling at it)… but I sure can now. And, amazingly, I’m actually looking forward to whatever else it is I can learn simply because I want my children to learn too.

I should say that it doesn’t have to be something as involved as homeschooling to really teach and learn with your children. It could be anything from a church function to boy scouts, a weekend camping trip, or even a walk down the street. Ever moment can be a teaching moment. And, as parents, we all attempt to teach our children whatever we can even when we don’t realize it. But, if you really want to up the ante so-to-speak, try homeschooling. And the next time you see you child’s teacher, just say “thank you for your hard work and abilities” and move on.

By Damian Brindle

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