One thing I have done over and over again since we began homeschooling was get into it along with my child. What is ‘it’ exactly? Whatever we are doing, particularly art projects and play-acting. Besides art class in elementary, and obviously music, I don’t recall my teachers ever much getting into our work and doing it themselves, I understand that they were busy, but one thing that I have read mentioned over and over in researching homeschooling is that parents are on a journey of learning too and that it is extremely validating to the child learning if the parent is learning right along beside them, working just as they are. Indeed, working with your child on the same kind of thing that they are doing gives the work relevance, rather than proving that it is just busy work, it shows that it is worthwhile enough to do that the adult would bother to do it as well.
Elizabeth often asks for me to help her color, particularly with markers. Most of the time I oblige. Occasionally she is asking me to color with or for her because she doesn’t want to do the work/is feeling lazy, in which case it is occasionally appropriate to finish the coloring for her, and occasionally it is appropriate for her to finish the job herself, other times it is necessary to just put the project away until a different day. More often, Elizabeth asks me to work with her just for the sake of doing the work together. It is comfortable to work on a project with a friend, and makes a big job seem less big. It is friendly to offer to share something that you enjoy doing as well. Lastly, it is just kind of the routine that I work along with her, it’s what I’ve done since the beginning to get her motivated and interested.
Both while I am planning our “lessons” and accepting her offer to work on the project together, I keep in my mind the importance of honoring different learning styles. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that I work alongside her as often as I do. For me, personally, when I was in high school and college, I needed to see a peer do the work, such as in a science lab, before I could even consider beginning, and it was very hard for me to get through the entire thing alone. I recognized this in college when I felt the overwhelming need to ask my peers how their labs ended up before I could write mine up – it didn’t matter if I had the same outcome as they did or not on the experiment, I just needed to know what they did and how it turned out. Luckily, when I went into the Peace Corps, I had to learn to just push myself to make mistakes and put myself out there in order to learn Spanish and do my work as the only gringa in my site, and so somehow overcame this impulsion to have to lean on others. As a result, I can now do things myself. (Actually, I’ve moved to not caring at all about what other people think and do, for better or for worse sometimes.)
But while I am working with Elizabeth, I try to stay sensitive to the idea that she may need to have me do the project right along with her. It does help a 5-year-old visualize an abstract concept if she can see it in the process. Generally, she is anxious to diverge from my directions and make up her own creative creation – which is absolutely wonderful, and at times trying.
Perhaps it is not necessary to work alongside her, but ultimately, I find that it is fun. I mean, who doesn’t miss coloring detailed chicks on Easter eggs with marker, or painting islands from an areal view, or coloring buildings for a community map while discussing favorite places in a nostalgic way. It is therapeutic. I homeschool for therapy. 🙂
So the next time your child asks you to join in on their project – go ahead, you might be all the calmer for it, and it might be that they need you to do it with them.
A great book to check out about learning styles is The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.
Share your thoughts: What are some ways that you learn alongside your child?