Learning

Recipe for success

OUCH!!! That hurt!

Doesn’t it happen every time you’re trying to learn something new? The first few times, you’re so careful to do it exactly right, and then just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, it all blows up in your face. I had a very embarrassing experience of this kind once at a craft workshop where one had to fill narrow bags with talcum powder… but I won’t go into that.

Actually, I think it’s an indispensable part of the learning process. Learning something right is good, but you also have to have the experience of getting it wrong and correcting it.

That is why there must be something fatally wrong, or at least tiresomely inefficient, with a system of teaching which always rewards success and punishes failure. There needs to be some leeway, some avenue for making mistakes and figuring out yourself how to correct them. There needs to be some privacy for making trials and errors with dignity.

This is the kind of little thing I think we can miss seeing because we’re all so accustomed to the school system and its mechanical drills of worksheets, tests, ticks and crosses. We think that’s learning, when really the child’s mind is too preoccupied with getting it right and getting the marks to allow for the experimentation that would produce true learning. Schools have to operate on this mechanical system because that’s the only way mass teaching can work, but we are in danger of bringing it into our homes out of habit.

By God’s grace, I have never marked my children’s exercises with a red pen, and by God’s grace I never will. We largely avoid using textbooks anyway, though they are useful to some extent. If you learn reading and maths by cooking and following the recipes, for example, not only is it far more interesting, but there are very tangible evidences of whether or not you’ve got it right. (For instance, when the child reading the recipe interprets “3/4 teaspoon salt” as “three or four teaspoons of salt”… but I might not go into that story either.) Somehow it is actually less humiliating burning a cake or having the whole family gagging on your waffles than to have someone tell you “You only got 65% on that test.” And when you come to think about it, waffles with four teaspoons of salt in them would probably be 95% right, which would be A-plus on a test. You see, the recipe book is a better teacher.

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3 thoughts on “Recipe for success

  1. Yes! Thank you so much for sharing this! I, too, have discovered that letting the girls (7, 6, & 3) help in the kitchen and the sewing room is better than any worksheet I could find. My middle daughter discovered recently that there’s a significant difference between 0:30 and 3:00 when one is softening butter in the microwave! :)

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