Learning Without Borders

I have received calls, texts, and emails from parents throughout the pandemic, asking me if I can help get their child to do their math, or reading, or “school work” in general. There seems to be an assumption that if my child “does” XYZ, then they will learn XYZ. However, as many of us know, doing an activity for a set period is only one factor in learning. What prompts us as adults to ask the question, “how do I get my child to do XYZ?”

I’ve been curious about this question for quite a while, especially during the pandemic when parent involvement was more significant. So I began to ask parents why they felt they needed to get their kids to do “XYZ,” especially at a particular time and/or using a specific resource. The responses I received varied:

– This is what their school wants them to do and when they want it done
– Someday, they will need to do this.
– They gotta learn that someday; they’ll need to do things they don’t like
– It fits better into our day if he gets it out of the way in the morning
– It really caused me a lot of problems when I didn’t know how to XYZ
– It keeps me up at night when I think I might be letting my kids down if they don’t know XYZ

There were many variations on these themes; however, most of them revolved around worries about what would happen if they didn’t “get them to do XYZ.” Fear was the driver. What is the child learning when his experience is based on fear? Or if the experience is one of someone demanding that he do “XYZ” at a specific time of day, for a certain period, or using a predetermined curriculum — or else he will fail?

Occasionally, though, I would receive an inquiry about “how do I help my child to learn XYZ?” This opens up a world of possibilities. Often we discuss how the parent noticed their child has learned other concepts and skills, or we talk about activities he gravitates to on his own and with others. It was even more stunning when both parents and the child participated in this inquiry process. We began to uncover their talents and how they could be utilized in learning.

I love hearing how the tone of voice changes and their faces relax when parents describe their child in these terms. What’s been your experience with asking the questions of “how do I get my kid to do XYZ?” and “how can I help my child learn XYZ?” What do you think is happening in our brains when we shift away from “getting them to do” to “helping them learn?”

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