Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why so serious?

I love academics. Really. My husband and I are both teachers, I feel comfortable and happy in an academic environment, and always have. Yet, today while I was doing schoolwork with Ariana it hit me how differently we approach it, and it was humbling.

As soon as I suggested that she get started, she came bounding over, full of enthusiasm. I asked what she wanted to work on, and she wanted to practice writing with her phonics book. We went through several pages, and she kept asking for more. Her writing has improved tremendously, and she was making all the letters the correct size without being reminded and beginning at the top. She is decoding effortlessly most of the time, and knows which sounds are associated with the different letters.

I should have been as delighted as she was. Instead, I found myself increasingly frustrated as she happily doodled and added extra letters to the page. Rather than merely circling the letters that corresponded with the drawings, she began X-ing out the ones that didn't match the letter and drawing the correct letter underneath.

After working on the letter H, she started acting silly, giggling and scribbling and circling all over the page. I opened my mouth to reprimand her for messing up the page as she beamed and said, "Mom, this is hilarious! Get it? Hilarious goes with H!"

I stopped myself and looked and listened. I was getting upset because the page wasn't as nice and neat as I wanted it to be. What did I really want? A pristine page? For...what purpose? I wanted her to be serious. Why? Because learning isn't supposed to be fun, let alone hilarious? Ay, ay ay.

She was being far wiser than I in the moment. She was showing initiative, going beyond what was required, and incorporating even more skills than the exercise called for. Why was my instinct to shut it down as if that were a bad thing?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love to fill quotas and put things into nice, neat little boxes and rows. I like the safety of following the letter of the law. But my five year old was following the spirit and delighting in it. We have barely begun the school year, and already I am learning new lessons. That is a good thing. I hope to capture the same joy that my daughter has in that.

Right after working on that, a friend linked me to this article, which, while on a slightly different topic, is still relevant, and very powerful. Check it out!

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