12 Gifts of Learning

12 Gifts of Learning

Photo credit: pippalou from morguefile.com


You’ve probably heard the song, The 12 Days of Christmas, but have you ever heard of the 12 Gifts of Learning? Give your child a gift for 12 days during December and then recycle and do it every other day in the coming year.


1. Listen

This is the tough one for us busy moms. There’s always something else, but in reality, what’s more important than our children? Next time that precious gift of yours decides to tell you just one more scenario that happened on their favorite video game, indulge them. Pull up a chair, ask questions, get excited right along with your child, and really listen. That’s what your child will grow up to remember. Heartfelt exchanges where you really listened.


2. Chill

Busy, busy holidays. Busy winter and busy spring and then there’s the summer fun! There will always be something else. Choose at least once a day to chill out. It might be that time that your child is wandering around bored and you choose to check your Facebook. Put it down and ask your child to bake some cookies with you. It might be that time you’re stuck in traffic and getting madder by the moment, put in a Christmas cd your child loves and watch her sing in the rear view mirror. Chill. You’ll not only save your own sanity, you’ll set a good example. 


3. Bend

As Mighty Mommy espouses, saying “No” all of the time is exhausting and denies your child a chance to find things out for themselves. After all, though bending guarantees an increase in messiness and uncertainty, it’s a valuable way to ensure learning. Taking that cup without a lid, pouring that flour into the small bowl, and waiting until the last minute to get ready to leave can mean an increase in inconvenience, but also an increase in learning. So, when you have the inclination, bend so you won’t break.


4. Give ’em a break.

My homeschooled child loves the flexibility and convenience of self managing his schedule. Today, he noticed he needed to add 10 more minutes to his time (to fulfill guidelines). Usually he’ll plow through, but today he said, “I really don’t feel like it.” I asked if he was taking an “early dismissal”. Yep. Sure, he could have pushed through 10 minutes, but is it worth it? Those extra minutes reading together at bedtime, those memorable treats after dinner, those are the small things in life that sometimes make our lives just a little more sunshiny. 


5. Learn too.

I have always been a lover of learning. If I’m not learning, I’m a very unhappy camper. Maybe you’re learning more about homeschooling, curriculum, and managing your time with schooling; or maybe you’re just controlling your child’s learning. You may be wondering why your child isn’t responding to his learning the way you like and you’re feeling uncertain about it. What are you learning?

Are you journaling about your experiences? Reading some blogs about homeschooling? Are you reaching out for support from someone who gets it? Even better, are you learning something unrelated to homeschooling just for you? I always advocate for learning at every age. Take a cooking class, take a free class online. Learn a new language. Not only will it add a thrill and energy to your life, it will yield a plethora of insights into what your child is going through. Don’t feel like working on your class today? Are you confused by your assigned readings? Do you wish you could take a day off? Now, you are learning more about your child’s own learning struggles too.


6. Add pizzazz!

Two years into our homeschooling, I am still quite content to sit home most days. In the spring or summer, I’ll venture into the back yard to read. THAT is a wonderful day for me. But some days, especially when winter rolls around and my sunshine dissipates, I long for pizzazz. That’s usually when I kidnap my own children. On the drive home, mom turns left instead of going straight and we head out for ice cream. Simple, yet different. Even turning down a local street that you’ve never been to before adds pizzazz! “Oh! That’s where that road leads!” It gives us enough of a jolt in our daily routine to say that life is worth living and there’s more to life than our humble existence. So, though money is tight, you can still take a different route home, walk into that restaurant you’ve never visited and try a different kind of coffee, or go feed the ducks somewhere new. Add some pizzazz on the days that wear you down. You’ll be glad you did.  


7. Understand. Really understand.

As adults we’ve seen a con game. Sometimes we’ve been conned by an adult, so by the time our sweet, innocent 5 year old tries it, we’re not buying it. But take a moment to think about why our little ones (and older ones) are trying to con us. Is it avoidance, fear, embarrassment? There’s always a reason. Many times we have neither the time nor the inclination to reason why our child won’t put on his socks. He just won’t and we’re late and we’re headed out the door. That’s all that matters, but there’s a reason. It might be his tactile sensitivities are acting up and they’re scratchy. It might be the color bugs him. It might be that they’re really his brothers. Slow down and really understand. It could end up saving you and your child a lot of grumpiness on that trip out the door.

Take the time with your older child too. Is it the holiday blahs, the fact that someone at school is bothering him, or is he tired of playing that trumpet because he’s hitting the wrong notes? There’s a reason why he’s grumbling about the concert. Find out. He’ll appreciate your interest and support and you’ll feel a closer bond with your own child.


8. Give

I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I read the word, “give” is money. I have very little money these days as the student loan people and my former college can tell you. Giving can be time, but who has that? Giving could be that ear you lend for the friend who’s going through a rough time, the cookies you bake to show your appreciation for someone, or the ideas you lend to that person who always helps you out. While you may say that few of these giving ideas are for your child, remember that our kids learn most about us by watching. They see what’s important to us and how much of a role model we choose to be during times like these. 


9. Receive

This one is tricky for me. Some people may call me self-centered and I guess I am, but I have THE HARDEST time receiving from other people. If it’s a monetary contribution and I didn’t invest much time in it, I can’t take it. It didn’t cost me anything so why should it cost you? Since quitting my full time breadwinner job to homeschool and rebuild myself and my child, I struggle even more with receiving. i always feel the need to reciprocate and then I understand it ceases to be a gift and becomes a trade. 

I think the key is to receive with gratitude and appreciation. Though I understand that wholeheartedly when I’m the giver; as the receiver, I have more work to do.


10. Celebrate

Though celebration can also serve as pizzazz, it can also be totally different. Celebration in this world of trophies, ribbons, and parties is really about gratitude or recognition. Keep in mind that in the world of children, it’s really not the trophies that kids remember; it’s the feeling they get from accomplishments. It means more to me (and always has) to know I truly helped someone rather than winning an award for any of my accomplishments. A trophy means criteria and judgment and doesn’t necessarily apply to real accomplishments. Accomplishments that deserve celebration (just thoughtful acknowledgement, not a big parade) might be the time that your child fixes his own breakfast, handles that frustration sans the physical explosion that usually accompanies it, that glint of pride you see in your child’s eyes as his project is deserving of his self-worth and he knows it. Most true celebrations are intrinsically motivated and recognized. Yet, every once in awhile, a pat on the back or a smile in acknowledgement from someone we respect is the perfect celebration. 


11. Guide

As a former teacher, I taught. Over the years I evolved into who I intrinsically knew I really was- a guide. My job as a teacher was to teach, but it really was just an illusion. I know because I had many teachers over the years who taught me nothing. I’m not saying in school I sat there asleep or that those teachers sat behind a desk reading a newspaper. I’m just saying that I have little to no recollection of ANYTHING that I learned while being in that classroom. Basically, I wasn’t taught. Teachers are merely guides. 

Think to any guided tour that you’ve taken. You probably set out to be instructed on the history, art, or special qualities by the tour guide who walked you to specific sites, rattled off several facts or hopefully, some insightful information, and then guided you to the next stop. Often, you probably turned to someone else to share insights, wandered off to see something different, or maybe even totally dismissed the guide as inconsequential while you chose to drink in the visit in your own way. The guide was there with information that you could choose to absorb or not with no fear of a test for accountability at the end. Sometimes you may have felt “ripped off” by a lackluster performance or limited through his insights or paths.

As a homeschool educator, your job is the same. Schools get it wrong when they say that teachers are there to teach. No, they’re there to guide. It’s a student’s job to drink it all in, take what he needs, and let the rest go. You have the same responsibility. You cannot control your child’s learning. Hand over the responsibility to the child and point out the landscape along the way.


12. Appreciate.

Your life is yours for the taking. For homeschoolers, this is an experiment, one stop along the way, or a lifetime of dedication. Whichever path you choose, appreciate the opportunity you have to get to know your child at a deeper level than other families. They will never understand the frustrations, uncertainties, and joys that you are experiencing. Appreciate them all. Appreciate your child’s role in this ever-evolving life in the making. Without him, your role would change tremendously. Appreciate the fact that your child has the same role of influence in your life as you have in his. Cherish that. Cherish your time together and the struggles. It will soon be over. Make it count. 

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