Learning to Live It Rather Than Teach It

There is no doubt in my mind that I have led an incredibly blessed life. I was blessed to have parents who early on saw the value in allowing me to pursue my own creative interests and knew the importance of helping me to be an independent thinker. The values and ideas that they instilled in me carry through to today.

One aspect they had little to no control over, however, was the set of personality traits I was born with and developed at an early age. I am a perfectionist. I tend to constantly agonize over whether or not the tasks to which I set my hands are being done absolutely perfectly. I must admit that the older I get, the more I realize the impossibility of this outcome, but it is still something I must contend with on a daily basis. As a mom, I worry that my parenting efforts are imperfect and that I will scar my daughter for life through my inadequacies.

Most recently, I have been struggling with the idea that I should make sure that Nicole is learning all of the things that she "should" be learning at this age. Partly because I want her to be able to take advantage of all the opportunity that she can in this world and be prepared to take it full on when she leaves our home, but also - I must admit - in part because I worry that other children are "ahead" of her or that other people will question our chosen parenting style if she is not "on track."

Over the last few days I have come across several books and blogs and other items that have reminded me of the silliness of this approach to Nicole's learning. I have been reminded that children have an innate desire to learn and that this will continue into adulthood if not squashed by boredom or enforced learning methods that don't mesh with her learning style. I have been reminded that my calling is not so much to be her "teacher" as it is to be her guide and example as to how life is lived and enjoyed and taken in. Here is a quote that I love by a mom out of one of the books I am reading right now: "Dan and I like doing and learning and living, so we have lots of stuff around to help us do that. The kids are welcome to use whatever of it they wish." That, to me embodies the kind of household we want to have. Joe and I have interests and a love of learning and we will pass on those loves and encourage the children to pursue their own interests and studies.

Even at this early age, Nicole has gone through several different "phases" in which she wanted to know more about a particular subject. She liked playing with fake foods for a while, but she is not as into that now. For a while, everything she did was pirate related and we heard a lot of "Arr, matey" and "avast ye!" around the house. We also have several broken plastic swords from hard fought sword fights between her and her dad or her and I. At one point, she was quite interested in dinosaurs and surprised her dad and I by learning names she still pronounces with no hesitation - words such as pterodactyl and triceratops. Lately, I've noticed an interest in leaves. She always wants to pick up leaves when we are out and wants to know what kind of leaves they are (which is a challenge for me, but we try and find out as soon as we get back to the computer!) Recently she watched a phonics DVD over and over and has become very proficient at pronouncing the sounds of the alphabet and becomes especially excited when she spots an "N" anywhere because it is just like the first letter of her own name. I blogged recently about our breakthrough with 1+1 and just yesterday I asked her if she could tell our friend Kami the result of that problem and she thought for a second before proudly proclaiming "2!" I could go on and on with the ways that I observe her on a daily basis exploring our world and soaking in information.

I am so thankful for the recent reminders that the pursuit of knowledge comes naturally and my purpose these days is to be the facilitator of as many learning opportunities as possible - NOT to make sure she is mastering the skill level arbitrarily set up by some outside source and NOT to insist that she learn something when I want her to and in the way I want her to learn it, but to allow her the freedoms that my parents allowed me - to be myself and to learn all of the things that it was important for me to know.


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