Potato Salad and Other Learning Lifestyle Teaching Aids
By Linda Dobson
When was the last time you made a list of all the things you do well? If you haven’t done so since grade school, or have never done it at all, get out a pen and piece of paper. Include all of your skills, not just academically related ones. Be specific: Instead of writing “I’m good at math,” write “I’m good at balancing the checkbook, maintaining the household budget, preparing an income tax return.” If you make the potato salad that disappears at every potluck supper it graces, add, “I make a wicked potato salad” to your list.
When you give your list some time and thought, you’ll likely find it’s a lot longer than you expected. An interesting side trip with your list is to go through it and note where you learned how to do these things. Lots of people are surprised to find that many – if not most – of the things they do well are the results of learning that occurred outside of school. Taking this lesson to heart led me to start thinking about the “return on investment” of the years children are required by law to remain in school. And, yes, the call to make the time investment even greater by adding to both the front and back ends grows louder every day.
In creating your list you may also discover that the activities you’re best at are the same ones you like doing the most and/or provide you with the most personal satisfaction.
Involvement Is Key to the Learning Lifestyle
Next, think about how you can share some of your expertise with your child in the context of a learning lifestyle. Let’s take your awesome potato salad as an example. Instead of preparing it all by yourself next time, invite your child to help. “I’ve got to get this potato salad made but I’m short on time. It would help a lot if you’ll grab the celery out of the refrigerator and chop up three stalks.”
As your child works, share the story about how you got the recipe. Talk about how many people like it and ask for the recipe, and “think out loud” about what sets it apart from other salads. Once the celery is chopped, think out loud, wondering how many cups you have. Give your estimate and ask your child to also estimate. Chances are good he’ll take it upon himself to measure just to see whose guess was most accurate. Ask, “Do you think that’s enough or do we need more? Do you think we need just as much chopped green pepper – or less or more?”
With this type of conversation you involve your child in a process that contributes to a learning lifestyle. Involvement leads to interest. Being interested is the key here. An interested child receives the information willingly, simply, informally, naturally. Instead of using worksheets, untold numbers of learning lifestyle kids painlessly learn and master fractions by making potato salad – or cookies or cakes or pizza. They pick up measurement of length by helping cut wood for the new doghouse or measuring cloth for curtains.
By starting your learning lifestyle at a place where you feel competent – because you like doing it and/or receive the most personal satisfaction – you’ll build the confidence necessary to venture into other, less familiar avenues.
The Learning Lifestyle and Your Child’s Abilities
Don’t forget to also tap into your child’s abilities! Children love the opportunity to share what they know. Could you live without ever knowing how to build a Lego robot? Probably, but why would you when the learning lifestyle lets you turn the tables and become the student while your child becomes the teacher, further supporting the learning lifestyle so effectively.
Even as you’re getting comfortable swapping expertise within the walls of your home, think about the untapped abilities of everyone you know – friends, neighbors, relatives, and people in the community. Remember: The world-at-large is a learning arena just waiting for your child. Living the learning lifestyle is the most natural, least expensive, wonderfully comfortable way for your child to become an independent, confident, and successful adult – who makes a wicked potato salad.