It’s exciting when you teach your children how to read or do math and then watch them do so successfully as part of their schoolwork. But to me, the really thrilling part is seeing them sprawled out on the floor with a stack of library books, reading for pleasure, or calculating on a piece of paper how many weeks’ worth of allowance it takes to buy a certain much-wanted toy. Using what they’ve learned in “school” to help them in their daily lives is what counts, as far as I’m concerned.
With my older kids, those “thrilling parts” came fairly early, probably when they were six or seven at the latest. But with our youngest, I found that he could learn to parrot back to me what I taught him, but he just didn’t seem to take the initiative to use those skills in real life…..until the past few years.
I first noticed it with video games. He began to figure out in his head how many more levels he needed to get to, or how many more of something he needed to catch. We know this because he mumbles these things (or shouts them if the game is going really well) as he plays.
Then he began pausing his favorite movies as the credits ran in order to write down the names of his favorite characters and the actors who played them. This only works when there are photos or footage with the credits, of course, but he knows just which movies have those and enjoys making long lists of the characters in them….with carefully printed letters.
This past year he began writing items down on the grocery list as we ran low on them. Now, I’m not sure how old my other kids were when I finally got them to do that with any kind of regularity. But at 16, Josh is a growing young man, and he’s hungry a lot of the time. Food has become pretty important to him. So I now find “orange pop” and “applesauce” and “Swiss rolls” neatly printed on the grocery list we keep on the refrigerator door.
And just in case I don’t buy enough of those things, he makes sure to put a quantity after the items (one day I saw “Cheetos-7″) on there. Every time I pass the fridge and see his careful printing on the list, I just have to chuckle. I’ve waited a long time to see him putting his learning into use, and I get a big kick out of it.