I would like to say that I was a good student and that I excelled in school. But, truth be told, I was not. To this day I am still not one who would thrive in a brick and mortar classroom.
On a recent trip to my hometown, it seemed that every street in the little community held a memory for me—some of the memories good and others not so good. As I sat outside the old school house, I was a little surprised that I wasn’t engulfed in memories. Instead, the only thing that came to mind was a quote that I love by Mark Twain: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
”Not that there weren’t good teachers and great people there (there were, and I have fond memories of many of them), it is just that the classroom and conforming and rules and structure bored me. As an adult, the world really opened up to me when I began reading writers like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Emily Dickinson.
As a parent, I am very aware of the different learning styles, more so than I was as a child. I wish that “someone/anyone” would have told me that I wasn’t dumb—I just didn’t respond to the methods that were being used. I am sure that I drive my children’s teacher (s) nuts, as I am not opposed to pulling my kids out of the brick and mortar building to try less conventional methods of learning when and if needed. I feel that as a parent it is my job to make my kids “lifelong learners,” and I take that job very seriously.
I am a mom of four boys, and all of them learn very differently. My oldest is like his dad—very auditory. He can hear something once and it sticks. My second-born is more like me—we just need time with it. We need to “sit with it” and “wear it” and find a practical use for it and see it before we have it “jell.” My third is tactile—he needs to touch it and work with it. And my fourth is very kinesthetic, meaning he needs to move to process the info.
I have discovered that even within the categories of visual learner, auditory learner, tactile learner and kinesthetic learner there are degrees and variations. People just take in and process information differently and that is okay. So as a parent I work very hard to make sure that they have the tools to take in the info in whatever ways they need for their learning styles. This hasn’t always been appreciated by those who felt they knew better.
Even as a young child, I knew that I had a love of writing. It was my constant. The actual act of writing calmed me, and getting the things out was therapeutic for sure. But it went deeper than that. I had a deep need to communicate by way of writing. I admired the written word, although my undiagnosed dyslexia left me feeling frustrated by it. I was always drawn to books but struggled with reading them until a college professor took the time to work with me and give me some tools that made the words come alive for me.
I have never been any good with spelling either. I tried to learn all the “rules” for spelling, things like “i before e, except after c” and so on. Sometimes they work…until you find an exception to the rule. My core belief is that writers aren’t made, they are born. I know a lot of great spellers who are amazing in sentence structure, grammar and spelling but would drop to their knees if they had to actually come up with a 1,000-word story, my oldest son being one of them. He is the brightest person I know—he continually pulls straight As in engineering, he’s a math whiz, and he makes statistics class look like finger painting. But make him write a story and he melts into a puddle.
I have learned that there are no such things as dumb kids, just late bloomers. Some don’t grab onto the info until it is presented in a way that they can take it in, process it, and make it their own.
One of my greatest accomplishments is that I never let my schooling interfere with my education. Somehow I “got” that there was more to me than the grades I received and the struggles in learning that I faced early on. Certainly there was more to me than the labels that some wanted to attach to me. Something in me knew that there was a writer dying to get out.
I have always dreaded the fall school bell. Maybe it is a residual reaction from my own youth, or maybe it has to do with the struggles I watch my own kids face (whether they are a 4.0 or a 3.0). Maybe it is the school schedule that seems to consume our home life, or that we have a “season of learning” instead of an environment of learning. I am not really sure. But this year, the two children who are still at home have requested to attend public school, and my husband and I have agreed that it is what they need at this moment. So, here we go.
I have come to understand that I will be the best advocate for my kids no matter where their primary learning comes from. With that in mind, I set up once again to ensure that my guys know that learning is a lifelong venture. I will be forever grateful that I discovered this truth early on. Learning doesn’t happen in a season. If we stay open to it, we become lifelong learners, improving ourselves over time.
The greatest gift I was ever given was someone taking the time to help me unleash the learner in me, then giving me the tools I needed to be a lifelong learner.