Real Learning

Real Learning

When we added a puppy to our home, we purchased a set of training DVDs to help us ‘get things right. ‘I would love to say we are devouring those DVDs, but the truth is we snack at them.  Even the snacking is bearing fruit.  A recent clip from the trainer pierced my home schooling heart:

 “Telling isn’t teaching.”

 Wow!  That was such a revelation to me.  I realize it should not have been so shocking.  After all, I have been a mom nearly twenty years.  Just because I tell my child something does not mean they have learned (or even done) what I have said.  Honestly, I have been a human nearly fifty years and I have not learned all that I have been told.  But the truth of this little nugget is so convicting as an educator.  

It is so easy to think that if a lesson has been presented, a lesson has been learned.  Every life experience tells us that this is not true.  Most things have to be learned, re-learned and practiced over and over before they are actually learned.  One of my greatest joys in home education is not ‘teaching to the test’ as public school educators must.  Our education goal is to take each subject and allow it to link to other knowledge and expand our ability to understand the world.  Such a goal is not a one-time lesson approach to any subject.

Years ago, as a novice Sunday School teacher, a wise woman told me, “Remember:  you are teaching children, not lessons.”  When a curriculum is moving faster or delving deeper than the student’s mind can grasp, it may be time to set up camp for a bit.  The intensive effort to fully grasp a subject will pay dividends as the course progresses.  That does not mean that a fifth grade student must probe to the depths of DNA that a College Biology student will.  Every year of education builds upon the previous years.  There is time to delve but basic understandings can not be compromised. 

In the early years of education children excitedly rush through lessons.  The natural parent reaction is pride in their precious ones impressive intellect.  We must take care that the accomplishments are solidly rooted in understanding.  Sometimes ‘doing’ can happen without understanding.  I can plug in a light but not know the details of electricity.  That is okay in some cases, but it is not conducive to real learning in an education setting.  Excellent readers may suffer from poor comprehension.  Intuitive math ability may mask a total lack of process understanding.  What appears to be repetitive, unnecessary work may be exactly what is needed to transform telling into understanding.

Finally, as a parent educator, grasping the truth that ‘telling isn’t teaching’ opens a door for patience–and humility.  Our job is teaching:  not telling.  When our students have not learned, we have not taught.  We must extend mercy to them in their ’failure to learn’ as they must extend mercy to us in our ‘failure to teach.’  The University of Home Education offers a curriculum for all.  Be transformed!

-Billie Jo


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