A few weeks ago, I attempted to show my 6-year-old how to sew. When I was her age, I knew how fabric was made and had the basics of needlework down. I tried to show my daughter how make certain stitches and planned on helping her to sew a small toy. I don’t know why I was under the impression that she would listen to instructions. She immediately decided that she wanted to make a more sophisticated toy, and that she could do it all on her own.
First, I panicked, because OMG she’s setting herself up for failure. Then I figured that maybe she needs to fail and learn from it. Only she didn’t really fail. First, she asked me to thread her needle, a process in which she had no interest. I showed her that she needs a knot at the end of her thread, which she watched me tie. Then she proceeded to making a toy out of a sock, occasionally asking me for assistance with some technical details. I finished off some of the elements (like tying the knots on the other end of the thread) when she was done and wasn’t even looking. Her “pet” turned out touchingly crude, and she was very disappointed in some of her failures in the process, but at the end she succeeded. All on her own. I’m very proud of her, but she took on an open-ended project. I can’t teach math or spelling in this manner.
But I am teaching her math and spelling. When I went to school, I did homework on my own and was graded for each assignment. Now I find that all parents supervise homework, and that homework is not graded because that would amount to grading parents. I frequently find myself explaining rather than reviewing. I find that basic penmanship was never consistently taught, and for that reason I have to break the bad habits she’s already developed. Why did I ever assume that a public school teaches students? In the best schools in our area, students are red-shirted and start kindergarten already knowing how to read. They don’t learn in school, they learn for school, often in private tutoring that starts at kindergarten or earlier.