When I was invited to join this blog, I had lots of ideas what should my first post be about — death to subject silos, put a stop to age segregation, pull parents and even the community into the learning, etc. While I would still like to bring a parent perspective on these important topics, I thought a personal story of learning inspired by my two daughters (age 2 and 6) would be a fitting start!
I recently posted about my experience letting my older daughter join me in some baking and IKEA assembly activities at home on my personal blog. I thought that we, the parents, including anyone else involved in our kids’ learning are guilty of being over protective with our kids — which reminded me of Gever Tulley letting kids use power tools! ;-)
In my post, I reflected that when kids want to take part in something, they’re inviting us to join them in their learning. Unfortunately, our response is to show them how to do things and tell them about doing it themselves at another time — e.g. when they’re older and skilled enough, as if age plays a role in acquiring the necessary skills! This made me realize we need to let them do it when they feel inspired and ready for it, while we stay around to help when asked or jump in if harm is inevitable.
In the past few days I realized there’s more to our behavior than the fear of harm!
Usually, I would take an opportunity to let my older daughter interact with grownups by herself — e.g. when buying a snack from the old lady running the concession in the ice rink where we go for ice skating, or asking to change the balloon she got from the staff at the restaurant we dine out often as she prefers a different color! However, when faced with an unfamiliar environment, I “take charge” and do it for her — as if handling unfamiliar environment is somehow scary or there’s a great risk of failing to do things the right way!
We’re often blamed for raising a spoon-fed generation. Parents do it for various reasons — pressure to make sure our kids conform to social norms, lack of understanding of the skills our kids own, the inconvenience of having to fix/pay for/clean when our kids make a mistake, the risk of facing a crying episode after a failure, etc. Ultimately, we’re driven by the fear of failure — that same fear that prevents us to step outside our own comfort zone interferes with our kids’ learning too!
To make things worse, it is not only parents who are contributing to the spoon-feeding culture. Teachers and others involved in any learning set-up that condemns failure and teaches kids that only correct answers are good answers are holding the spoon too. The reasons may seem different at first sight — expectations around average scores, focusing on the answers instead of the process, the difficulty to measure one’s learning if not following the same approach as other teachers across the country — but ultimately it is the same fear of failure the parents succumb to that prevents teachers from letting off the spoon!
I am inspired by my younger daughter because of the fact that she, at age 2, eats soup entirely by herself, finishing it all without making a total mess — kudos to her daycare for that! She is actually ready to scream at anyone who tries to take the spoon from her to feed her! ;-)
I wish more kids scream when they see someone taking away the opportunity to learn from them!