Early on, Spouse and I decided we would homeschool Junior. We were reading dangerous books: the kind of books that lead you to think outside of boxes, books that suggest there are other ways, that there are, perhaps, better ways to learn. The books we loved the most were/are those written by John C. Holt. This fearless, revolutionary thinker, this lover of life and learning, had much to say about How Children Learn, How Children Fail, and that It’s Never Too Late for anyone who wants to try something new. Learning is a natural thing that humans do. It’s why the species has survived-learning, adapting, evolving.
Homeschooling is a challenge. We want to offer our child all that’s best for him, for his personality, his innate strengths, his processing method, as well as introduce new things, a world full of possibilities that may vie for his interest and attention. We want him able to do what interests him. We want him to know stuff. We also want him to be able to balance a checkbook, read legal documents, and sign his name. If he’s a confident, interesting person, one who knows how to learn, how to find the information he needs at any given time, someone who is emotionally sound and happy, he will be a great adult.
The best thing I’ve learned up to now, in our adventure as parents who homeschool, is that kids learn a lot, if not most, of their life skills via behavior modeled by others. If I want my child to be interesting, I need to be interesting. If I want my child to follow pursuits that grip him, I need to follow mine. He needs to see me doing collage, baking bread, studying cake recipes, typing these words. He should casually be around when I check the broccoli plants for any invading Coddling Moth larvae, taste the differences between just-picked raspberries in varying degrees of ripeness, see the steam rising from the turned-over compost. He also needs to see how I clean up the kitchen, rearrange furniture, how the dining table looks when it’s cleared off. He sees me doing our monies in Excel and Quickbooks. He knows what we do at the Post Office, how I read labels and buy things at the grocery store, what to converse about at the hair salon, the etiquette of movie theaters, etc, from being around us. He hears Spouse and I thanking each other, thanking him, asking nicely for things, or apologizing when we haven’t been as we wanted to. He’s learning to make a great latte.
Another best thing I’ve learned is that I need to take part in his interests. When invited, I need to watch him build that tower in Minecraft, I need to say yes to Lego Chima racing, I need to do my best at light saber or Nerf battling, I need to ask him questions about the WWII airplane model he just assembled, and I need to listen to all of his recounts from favorite shows and movies. I help him spell tricky words during internet searches and watch seemingly endless footage of YouTube fireworks videos. I also facilitate play dates, field trips, store purchases when requested, and have made more arm fart noise then ever thought I would as an adult.
Spouse and I have learned the importance, and the power, of saying yes. When I say yes to Junior’s request to play or watch or listen, I am doing much more than helping him feel entertained: I am validating him as a human being. People his age haven’t yet learned to distinguish between something that interests them and themselves. When Junior is REALLY into Thing A this week, I want to support him. When Thing A morphs into Thing B 10 days later, I try to keep up. If I am never able to pull myself away from my Important Work, my work is more important than he is. My words can tell him he’s loved, but when I sit on the couch to watch him command WWII airplanes over North Africa, he knows he’s loved. Both Spouse and I will often qualify yeses with “in 5 minutes” or “next Thursday” or a “Definitely! I will email his mom right now and try to set that up!” but we want the first thing he hears to be a resounding “yes.” We do set boundaries, personal and family, which require something other than a yes, but those are unique. Living in a world of yes, “no” has power as well.
There are days when I don’t want to say yes or play or watch. Days when I want to do this! Days when I want to curl up, read just for me, or simply nap. Those days aren’t easy but even 5-10 minutes of undivided attention with him helps him say yes to me. Almost magically, the practice of saying yes, learned through example. Live with Yes. Try it. Coupled with the healthy personal boundary of a well-placed No, the world, and you in it, will become more alive, hopeful, open, brave, selfless, giving, and unending. Yes!