Hand in Hand

Hand in Hand - RF - HSLDA Blog

One of the beauties of homeschooling is the ability to custom craft a training program to meet the specific needs of each individual student. What I like about the tutoring environment is the flexibility and freedom. I love the notion of teaching the basic parameters and setting my students loose on the world to put their theoretical knowledge to work.

There’s something to be said for the hands-off approach of saying, “Look it up!” when asked a basic question, testing the limits of curiosity, initiative, and resourcefulness.

However, as enticing as the prospect of the hands-free educational model can seem to a weary teacher just looking for a break, there’s really nothing to replicate the time-intensive model of hands-on discipline and training.

The idea of coming alongside someone to provide training, support, and encouragement is a timeless schooling tradition. Mentoring (as opposed to lecturing) is one of the most effective ways of teaching by providing practical, engaged learning opportunities built on the premise of an accessible relationship.

I didn’t come up with the following list, but I love the idea that an effective teaching progression should involve certain steps:

1) Show someone how to do something;
2) Invite them to join you and do it together;
3) Help them do it;
4) Watch them do it, offering corrections and suggestions as necessary;
5) Finally, let them do it unsupervised.

And I think that’s a fine program, only we need to make sure we’re lingering long enough in the “do it together” phase, especially for young children who often require a lot of reiteration, reinforcement, and especially accountability.

I fully appreciate the benefits of teaching kids independence from a young age. I love handing out assignments and having confidence that the chores will be done and the lessons will be completed, but I think I tend to romanticize the process by which we have gotten as far as we have.

Now that my older girls are so reliably accomplished and trustworthy, I tend to forget how much effort I invested in working through things together in the early years. I actually did spend a lot of time with them modeling how to do things. While I now prize their independence and initiative, their skill sets only grew through many hours of hands-on instruction and correction. I can’t expect the same level of commitment and excellence from my younger kids.

This concept—investing intensive training on the front end with the hope of achieving an eventual payoff in the end—extends to far more than schooling. As fun as it can be to solve countless math problems or sound out endless words together, housework, chores, and garden work also seem to go much more smoothly when I’m right there beside my children, working with them (even sitting by the sidelines doing my own thing, as long as I’m in the same space, provides valuable oversight and accountability, but I’ve learned that morale is best and productivity highest when I’m in the thick of it, working right alongside them).

Young children have high levels of distraction and forgetfulness. If I assign a task without adequate follow-through and supervision, they’re likely to end up bewildered and baffled. It’s far better for me just to acknowledge that they need my almost-constant presence and plan accordingly. Someday they, too, will be waking up early and making breakfast on their own, but for now, I need to hold them by the hand and walk them through it all.

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