Mr. Miyagi…You Are My Hero

On Monday morning I was reading through some homeschool articles and ramping up to finish my posts for the week. One of the articles I found was Homeschool Has Its Good and Bad Days. I was browsing through the comments when it suddenly hit me – I know what teaching style/affect I want to have on Emily.

Mr. Miyagi may be a fictional character, but in the original Karate Kid (not the recent one, folks, the 80s version), Mr. Miyagi teaches young Daniel martial arts moves under the guise of putting him to work. Who can forget “wash on, wash off?” Daniel labors on, growing more resentful by the day, until finally complaining that he is not learning anything. Then there is the classic scene where Daniel and Mr. Miyagi face off, and Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel just what he has been learning all along.

I realized that, whenever possible, I want the learning to be so natural that Emily may not even realize she is “learning.”

I look at my daughter and realize that, at least in the present, she is completely turned off by ‘official learning’. Worksheets, learning programs, she loses interest instantly. Tell her stories, however, show her through tasks and real-life examples, and she is absolutely hooked.

I talked about this the other day in the Show Me the Money post, but it begs repeating. Understanding how she learns is 80% of helping her along the learning path.

Like the plants in my garden, I want to see organic learning taking place whenever possible. Unadulterated by a regimented curriculum or odious worksheets and tests, I want to see Emily grow naturally. Each weekday we settle in to practice reading. It is the most regimented act of our learning each day. She squirms, dislikes it because she feels she is not competent, but we return to it each day nonetheless. I point out the little details…”the ‘th’ together make a thhh sound…two o’s together make an oo sound” Slowly her abilities grow – and I also encourage her to play different reading games. Online at Nick Jr. is an excellent Dora game where the player matches up the first letter of a three-or-four-letter word based on its sound…bat, cat, mat, hat…

Incomprehensibly to me, math is so much easier. I never thought I would be saying that, considering how much trouble I had with math. There are the examples from the Show Me the Money post, and then there was the simple act of collecting eggs from our chickens the other day. “Wow, so Daddy picked up seven eggs yesterday and we have three in here from today so far, so how many does that make.” I held my tongue, sure she would say “I don’t know,” but her math skills have been improving daily with practice.

She thinks a moment and says, “Ten, we’ve gotten ten eggs between yesterday and today so far.”

“Yes, Emily, you are right!” She beams proudly, does a little dance of triumph and the chickens scatter around her.

More than anything, I want Emily’s learning to come naturally, as much as possible, through her environment and interactions with others and generated out of her own thirst for knowledge. I believe that is the kind of learning that will stay with her the rest of her life.

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