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Turning the Tables

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Turning the Tables

Published: 01/14/2014 by Dayna Mazzuca

» Testimonials & Experience

Children are great. They are typically honest about what they want and often take action to get it. They enjoy simple, straightforward explanations about how the world works. And they ask deep, meaningful questions at the most unexpected times. This openness to the world and themselves makes them great teachers. Of course they don’t always teach by talking. More often than not, what they do (and don’t do) speaks volumes.



As a home educator, I find I have lots of time to watch my children and learn enough life lessons to see me through any adult situation.


Recently I watched my daughter prepare the midmorning snack for her and her brother. As she scooped peach slices into her bowl, and then his bowl, she carefully counted, “One, one, two, two, three, three…” and so on. She was making absolutely positively sure each bowl has an equal number of peaches. She sliced the banana and counted the pieces out, “One, one, two, two…” and then peeled the orange and divided it evenly. It was about fairness.



Make Things Fair

Fairness is lesson number one, when it comes to what children have to teach. At this age, equality is tangible. What one person gets, the other person gets. When things are out of whack, there’s an uproar. A footstomping protest in some cases. It doesn’t take a genius

to connect the dots: when people feel unfairly treated, they will protest. Something in each one of us, regardless of age or status, expects a measure of justice, equality and balance. Makes sense. And it starts early.




I’ve also noticed both my children learn better if the pen, or can opener, or book is in their hands (not mine). When I pick up the whiteboard marker to illustrate long division, for instance, my son’s patience grows thin fast.



 But, if I tell him to grab a marker and divide the circle representing a pepperoni pizza into 12 equal parts, he jumps out of his seat and starts drawing. This tells me learning is best done hands-on, and that independence is something children eagerly move towards. It’s not natural for them to sit back with folded hands and listen contentedly to me impart my wisdom and experience. This holds true for adults too.



In my experience, people invited into the leadership process or learning processes of life are more engaged than those told to accept decisions handed down from on high, or those told to take a seat and listen without opportunity for feedback and input. Learning is active


Know the Question

I’ve often noticed if one of my children makes a mistake in their bookwork, nine times out of 10 it’s because they didn’t read the question right, and not because they didn’t know how to solve the problem. I tell them the hardest part of solving any problem is reading the question and knowing what’s being asked. What’s required?



I have found this to be true in life as well. As an adult, I’ve often served on committees or teams tasked with solving a problem. Typically, we just dive into the deep end, spend countless hours devising solutions and programs to make things better, without taking time to make sure we were “answering” the right question.



Take a Break

For my children, once they’ve understood the questions being asked, of them and tackled the problem head-on, and taken the time to focus and get the work done, I tell them to take a break. I tell them to take a break whenever their brain needs it. I tell them it’s about training the brain, and that means taking a rest when necessary. By now, we have a fairly consistent schedule of work and breaks built into our day.



I love this life lesson of taking breaks when necessary, being proactive. Every time my kids take a break, they come back energized and willing to tackle the next problem at hand. Regular breaks are part of a healthy daily rhythm. We take a short morning break, a longer afternoon break and a weekly break of a whole day “off” from learning, programs and bookwork. This is a great life lesson I hope they carry into adulthood, where many people live a grinding 24/7 lifestyle. This includes homeschoolers.



For many of us, home learning is a 24/7 full-time endeavor that often leaves us feeling more burned out than we’d like to admit. So, if we can manage to model a lifestyle that includes regular breaks, breaks from our work and from each other, our children will reap the rewards in body and soul. It’s simply not a lesson our children will learn from future employers or friends or even their own culture. It is a counter-culture lesson whose time has come. I see this as a home educator and as someone instilling spiritual, mental and bodily disciplines into my children. Taking breaks makes everything (and everyone) work better in the long run. Every time.



Laughter Sticks

Finally, the lesson I’ve learned from teaching my children, who teach me right back (proving Newton’s Law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction) is that humour makes things stick. If I can make my son or daughter laugh when teaching them measurement, verbs, weather patterns or mind retention — by using myself as the heaviest thing in the room to weigh, or acting out the lion hunt or finding funny pictures in the clouds, or using a colander to show what happens when our brain acts like a sieve — they remember the lesson. Plus, they are likely to repeat the lesson when their dad gets home, reinforcing the learning and the personal bonding. Everyone gets the joke.



So these are the life lessons my children have taught me lately: it’s important things are done fairly and everyone receives an equal amount of respect, learning is an active, hands-on process that moves people towards independence, taking time to correctly identify the problem is nine-tenths of finding the solution, breaks help brain muscles work more efficiently, laughter sticks and humour is one of the best teaching tools around. Whew! As a parent, it often feels like my two young children are giving me a masters-level course in living well.