Thursday, March 3, 2011

Learning Through Frustration

My aggravation today got me thinking about how we learn and what type of educational experiences stick with us the most.  I've always been a big proponent of hands-on learning and good old fashioned "figure it out for yourself" learning.  Today definitely challenged those models, but ultimately confirmed what I already knew.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to get the videos I'd taken on my iphone last night onto DVDs we could watch on our TV.  My daughters had an audition preparation session last night for their upcoming play, "Annie."  They have songs and dance routines to learn this week and I really didn't want them trying to watch them on my iphone or computer all week.  I figured it would be far simpler for all of us if they had a DVD instead.  

Turns out that transfer isn't exactly easy.  There's no nifty feature in iTunes (that I know of) that allows your to just burn a dvd from a downloaded video.  I had to search the internet for software, download it, and learn to use it through much trial and error.  Personally, I think I overdid the "error" part.  When I finally figured it out, I realized that the picture on all the videos was sideways (some odd quirk of iphones).  After screaming a string of profanities, silently.... my daughters were home after all, I found a video editing program that allowed me to fix that.

It was a horrendous struggle and I don't look forward to repeating the experience anytime soon.  Still... I learned a tremendous amount.  Would it have been easier if I'd had someone to take me step by step through the process?  Absolutely!!!!  But, I wouldn't have learned nearly as much.  Making the gazillion mistakes I made today taught me a great deal about video editing.  I was frustrated, but I did ultimately figure it out and am proud that was able to do it.

That kind of ownership only comes from figuring things out yourself.  I think we need to find more room in our educational system for this kind of learning. It's far more lasting and ultimately builds student confidence like nothing else can.  Most people have learned to use computers this way through necessity.  Computer software and technology changes so rapidly, that we simply have to figure it out as we need it.  There are no classroom teachers to explain things for us.  

So, instead of always thinking of things I can teach my kids, I'm going to work on devising a curriculum that includes this kind of autodidacticism.  I'll set them various tasks to complete.  Something like... here's $30 bucks --> go plant us a vegetable garden.  I could take them to the nursery to get seedlings, etc. and the library to find how-to books, but other than that, I'd stay hands off and let them make all the mistakes they need to in order to really learn.  It would make our "homeschooling" a lot harder to document for the charter school, but I think they'd learn a heck of a lot more!


  1. "So, instead of always thinking of things I can teach my kids, I'm going to work on devising a curriculum that includes this kind of autodidacticism."

    I love your idea! I see how young children are naturally inclined for this as they always want to do it themselves. Letting children make mistakes is not always easy for a parent but there is much to be gained from such experience. Thanks for your post and I love your blog!

  2. Thanks Joyful Learner -- and you're right -- kids do prefer to "do it themselves." We should use that natural drive to make education easier.

  3. Oh my gosh, this blog entry couldn't be more appropriate for the day I had! Caroline's sweet teacher brought her mother in to teach the kids how to crochet--such fun! I had already volunteered to help, but a teacher I am not. Not by a long shot. As you know, working with yarn and hook can be demonstrated, but the student really just needs to try and try and try and then figure it out for themselves. And the joy on their faces when they did--especially the boys! I explained to a few of them that there is really nothing so satisfying in life than thinking you simply can't do something and then--presto!--figuring it out.

  4. Exactly Melissa -- it's always so much more satisfying when you can figure it out yourself. Knitting and crocheting are great activities for young boys too -- really helps them focus!

  5. Hello. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions on how you were able to have your gifted children to participate in homeschooling? I'm having a hard time with my emotional 6 year old.

    Thank you for your time.

  6. Certainly, I'd be happy to answer any questions if I can be helpful.