Monday, April 11, 2011

Apprenticeship in Real Life

Teaching life skills is an "apprenticeship in real life."  I like this term.  It reminds me of what unschoolers do.  They immerse their children in real life.   Real life involves all kinds of things -- from academics to household skills to development of talents.   Just as everyone's "present moment" is infinitely rich and unique, so is everyone's life circumstances and their relationship with their family.  Unschooling, and probably most forms of homeschooling, capitalize on that.  Personally I am not very good at it.  But I love to hear about it in other families and I love the moments when it seems to happen in my family. 

Life Skills for Kids mentions three sides to this apprenticeship.   What did an apprentice, say in the Middle Ages, actually do?

1.  Watch someone more advanced do it.
2. Try it himself.
3. Receive feedback and advice on how to correct problems and do better.

This is similar to the ideal coach/player relationship, too.  When a kid is internally motivated, he doesn't mind the humility involved in this kind of learning.  It's often more difficult when it's something the child does not value internally.   Here, tact and firmness play a part.

  • Tact is about salvaging potential loss of face of the other person.  This is basic Christian courtesy and applies to children as well as adults.  Sometimes non-essential concessions can be made -- Stephen Covey talks about looking for the "win/win" in a situation of potential conflict.   Life Skills for Kids mentions including some fun in the teaching.  Most of us have picked up some persuasive skills in childhood or our adult life -- getting other people to see charm or humor or interest in something they don't naturally want to do.   By using these skills with a child, you teach him the tact as well as the actual skill you are trying to teach. 
  • Firmness balances the tact and keeps it on the right path.   To be firm, I have to have decided that this effort is worth the difficulties, and that the core, whatever it is in the situation, is worth it.   
Here are some of the suggestions in the book:

  1. Train in the small sub-steps of the job.  No detail is too small.   Have patience with the process.
  2. Use a light touch..... humor and fun can be helpful.
  3. Have visual reminders (the book suggested several types of visual reminders and charts -- here are some at Tip Junkie)  (I've also used the Visual Aids for autistic and dev delayed kids) (Sarah has Skill Cards)
  4. Use summer vacation for immersion time in life skills teaching.   Even if you homeschool, summer's often more leisurely, and easy to work on specific targeted skills.  You could keep a list of things you notice need work during the school year, and work on them during breaks.
  5. Change up the routine or chart to reflect changing seasons and foster motivation and enthusiasm.   Games and charts can be useful here. 
  6. Let children help decide on consequences for undone things (the consequence should be as natural as possible, and be helpful for development -- like, if a kid doesn't do the dishes, he can "practice" by taking over a bigger share).
  7. Put a stop to complaining.  This is a good reminder for me.  I like my kids to give honest feedback, so I don't like to just say "be quiet!"  but I've forgotten my old habit of requiring them to complain in a constructive, solution-oriented way rather than just grumping.  
  8. Have some longer-term projects.  Most kids in the 5-14 age range are much more motivated by a project that has a definite beginning, middle, end and outcome.  These foster good work habits, and involve less drudgery of repetition.  So it's beneficial to get them involved in the bigger projects around the house. 
  9. Target things towards mastery and creativity and ownership.  It's also helpful for motivation to have some "technique" or skill involved that the child can improve in.  For example, Speed Cleaning emphasizes professional methods and speeding up one's time, which may be more interesting to boys.  My boys prefer jobs that require their man's strength.   Girls might like the chance to make things pretty -- helping to decorate or rearrange, finding a good-smelling cleaning agent.   Creativity and mastery are important to motivation, and over time, feeling that one has some control over the process is an inducement to responsibility.  
  10. Note the child's learning style and temperament.   Some kids like visuals, some like auditory commands, some like to observe the skill before they try it.   Some would like to prove mastery of a job so they can move on to a new one, while others prefer to have the same safe, comfortable job to do over and over.   Some like being part of a team, others like working on their own.   Some like to have "one way" of doing things, some like to look at several options and choose the one most appealing to them.  Pay attention to your own "style" too.

These tips can apply to almost every life skill teaching.  I would find it overwhelming to try and brush them all up at once, but I'm going to take two or three at a time and focus on them.

1 comment:

  1. These ideas are very helpful to me. Stuff I kind of already knew but need to be reminded of on a pretty frequent basis. Thanks for reminding me!


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