September 22, 2017

Failing to Learn




Have you ever wondered why some people dive into new learning adventures, while others seem continuously learning-challenged, or stuck on a learning plateau?


A Different Learning Philosophy
Years ago, when a new friend observed my life, and my extreme variety of skills, she inquired about my adventurous learning tendency.  I had never put much thought into the reason behind my willingness to dive into new learning adventures.  But when faced with thinking about why I tended to take on learning new things more readily than most, I stumbled upon an interesting discovery, a under-riding philosophical current that carried me through my many skill-producing adventures.


What is this philosophy?  Basically, it’s that life presents us with experiments to learn from, not feats to accomplish.  Experimenting allows for failure; it actually welcomes it.  Failure becomes an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world around you through discovery and observation.  It is not a means to an end, but a means to many new beginnings.


Failure is What You Allow it to Be
Starting a task focused on success at the onset, without allowing for the possibility of failure, hinders most people from learning.  They determine ahead of time they can’t succeed, so they don’t begin.  Or, if they fail the first or second time, they deem the feat too difficult to pursue because they become defeated.  



Examples of Success Through Failure
I have a feeling Thomas Edison had a similar view of life to mine.  It is said that Mr. Edison had 1,000 failed attempts when trying to create the light bulb after he had already been fired from two jobs because he was considered “non-productive” in his work.  Talk about a life filled with experiential learning!


Similarly, I mastered the art of cheese making through failure.  After moving to the country and getting a milking cow, I decided I needed to learn how to make cheese.  For a long time, my chickens were the only ones willing to eat my cheese, and sometimes not even they would touch it.  It was bad, but I didn’t give up.  I learned and kept on trying to learn from my mistakes.  


Attempt after attempt improved my results.  I started putting my recipes onto a cheese making section of my personal blog.  Soon I had hundreds of people visiting my site.  The pinnacle accomplishment, which I would have never set my sights on when only my chickens were my only customers, was becoming a featured cheese blogger for the New England Cheese Making Company for my Brie recipe.


Allowing Failure to Under-Ride Our Homeschooling
When we look at homeschooling our special education children, both parent and child alike, we need to take the experimental perspective towards these tasks too if we dare to attempt to learn throughout the process.


As parents, we need to understand both teaching and parenting are truly experimental.  We formulate a hypothesis with the information we have from God, our child, and all the research we have gathered. Then we set up the experiment and conduct it accordingly. We test the accuracy of what we thought would bring a result equivalent to our hypothesis.  Over time we learn, tweak methods, and grow in our skills and ability to determine what will work.


For our children, they too must realize everything they attempt to learn is an experiment.  Each lesson allows them to discover how they best learn; what helps them understand, and what concepts/skills they already have to use in learning new things.  Sometimes their experiments will produce successful learning, but other times they won’t.  Over time they learn, they tweak and they grow in their skills and start to figure out how to better approach new learning endeavors.


The Experimental Beauty of Failure
The beauty of this approach is it takes away the pressure of success.  Instead, learning takes its rightful place as a vehicle of discovery and growth.  And, isn’t the ability to learn, grow and discover what we desire most to teach our children?

 

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