Thursday, September 06, 2012

When Life is the Teacher...

I have always held the belief (in theory) that life is school and school is life. There is a certain amount of book learning that we must do to be well-educated these days, but there are days when life experiences are themselves the best teachers. We had a day like that this week. It had to do with driving in Washington, D.C. I needed to go here, to the National Geographic Museum, but instead ended up somewhere near Maryland on the far side of the city as I patiently followed the directions my computer navigator gave me. I had given my son the job of entering things in the Garmin and then reading street signs for me. He does a great job of finding the signs and telling me when it's nearly time to turn, but this time he had made the small error of not entering the correct numbers into the street address, and we did not discover the error until I felt that, after several miles and about 342 stop lights we were really not in the right part of town (I had been to the museum before and nothing looked familiar). Finally I asked him, "What numbers did you enter?" and surely, he had entered the wrong numbers on 17th St. and we were in a whole other part of town. To make a long and stressful story short, it took us 1.5 hours to get to a place we should have reached in 40 minutes. There was later another tangle with construction and lack of parking, a rainstorm and an acrobatics show that was expected to last 45 minutes that only lasted... 5 minutes. Yes, it was one of those days.

The lesson came over dinner, when we talked about what went wrong. Matty thought it was in not navigating well, not warning me in enough time to make turns, (I did go around blocks quite a few times because of this, which didn't bother me so much) but I pointed out that the greatest frustration was in getting lost due to the incorrect entering of numbers--a simple problem that could have been solved with a double-check. It was an honest mistake the first time, and next time it will be foolish. He got it. He took it in. I'll absolutely give him another chance. But this is really what it is all about, isn't it? Life is the educator! We both experienced the stress and frustration of getting lost, of carelessness, of being late for an appointment, but we were able to look back and glean some value from it. When I told him that I didn't blame him, that I would get him to navigate again for me, that I would continue to give him jobs that required his responsible diligence, he was relieved. He said, "You will!?" as though he really didn't think I would have faith in him for next time...but I do. Even if it means getting lost again.

When I think about "why I do this..." I cannot help but think it has something to do with days like this one--lessons learned hard, with a wise parent-friend to guide them through, to love them in spite of their shortcomings, to celebrate the overcoming of a thing.
It's not that other parents don't do this, because I know they do, and there are many great parents out there who don't homeschool. It's just that I love how it is so naturally woven into our daily life--that education and coming and going and living and experiencing are all the same thing, not compartmentalized into "this happened at home" and "this happened at school." School is life and life is school. Every day.

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