Let me get straight to the point…
Of all the things I do with my children, the thing I hate the most is having to sit down and teach them something. You know, like teaching the alphabet, the colors, to count, to recognize numbers, etc. If I had my way, I would have them learn simply by being around me and watching me do it. I would be excited if I could simply look at them and have my knowledge pass freely between us.
Because osmosis just isn’t happening, I have to carve out time each week to sit with each of them to focus on something they need to learn. Last year, I had an epiphany: either I suck at teaching or they stink at learning.
After having many tough sessions where either I end up screaming or they end up crying, I decided I had to find an alternative. First I hired my nephew to come over each week and work with the boys…but I quickly realized that he was giving them the answers instead of teaching them. So I turned to help from Granny…but she was a tad militant in her teaching methods and that was not good! Then I added the kids tutoring as part of the work responsibilities of the baby-sitter/nanny. In the beginning that seemed to work but they quickly learned that she hadn’t the power to make the focus when they didn’t want to. Most recently, I thought I could use technology. So I got them subscribed to http://www.abcmouse.com (thanks Uncle Nicholas) and I also bought them a host of learning apps for their tablets. Each day they got 15 minutes of math time and 15 minutes of reading time. They would take the tests at the end of their sessions and I was always pleased with their results…but all that glitters is definitely not gold.
Last night as we were walking back from a neighborhood restaurant, I asked them a few math problems I remembered from their math app. They got ALL the answers wrong. This morning I asked them to spell a few words I knew they were being exposed to on the reading app and they hadn’t a clue. That’s when I realized that all of these things were NOT working. That while my boys hate it, what they really need is for me to sit down with them and to work with them the old fashioned way. It is the knowing that they can not get up from the table until I say we are done that actually spurs them to greatness.
Here’s our routine: First because they don’t want to sit down I have to use my stern “Daddy Voice” get them to the table. Then they pretend they don’t know/understand anything. After I remind them that we aren’t getting up until they are done, they start crying and wanna go blow their nose or use to the bathroom. After I go get them from the bathroom and get them back to the table, and when all their antics are over, they finally sit down and concentrate on what it is I need to teach them. So while it may take 20 minutes of antics before they sit down to give me the 20 minutes of focused time, when it is all done, they are smarter for it. They might not believe they are..but I promise you they are. Ask their teachers if you don’t believe me!
So after our time this morning, do I still think that either I am a bad teacher or they suck at learning…Yup. And yes, the way we go about working together is not pleasurable to see. And I confident my boys don’t look forward to having to sit down with me. But the having to return to the traditional ways has shown me that there are no shortcuts to learning and that we will have to struggle through it the best we know how. While our methods may not be orthodox…they are working!
Note: Educational apps don’t work when introducing my children to new topics. They seem to work best when reinforcing material they’ve learned the old fashioned way!