Free to Fail

“It is high time for the church to remind our broken and burned out world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a one-way declaration that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose; because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.” ~  Tullian Tchividjian

Free to fail, what a thought!  I grew up very insecure and felt very much like a failure.  I failed again and again at life, at relationships, at about everything I tried, but then I became a Christian.  Lying on my bed one night, I prayed “God I hurt, I can’t take it anymore, I just don’t want to feel anymore – I want to die, I don’t want to go to heaven, I don’t want to go to hell, I want to just not exist.  Please help me, I know this is wrong.” and then I cried myself to sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, I turned over in bed and looked out of the window and saw it was a new day… A new day… and I had hope.  I hadn’t known hope in a long time, but I woke up with it that morning and my life was changed.  God did it; He gave me a gift, the gift of hope!  What joy I felt.

Years have gone by and life has failed me, people have failed me and I have failed them.  I know failure and have come through it, but I still fear it.  The fear of it paralyzes me at time.  I’m not free to speak, to act, to write because I fear failure.  Not only do I fear failure, I fear being rejected, being mocked, being hurt and those fears paralyze me.  I become like the man who hid his talent, buried it in the ground, because he knew that if he lost it… so he just buried it.  That’s me; time after time I bury myself.  I actually picture it – when I’m afraid, when I feel I’ve let people down, when I let myself down, I picture myself crawling into a big hole in my backyard and burying myself.

I read an article recently about letting your children fail and I realize how my fears have affected them – I don’t want to fail, I don’t want them to fail, so I protect them, I shelter them.  I don’t want them to know the hurt, the pain I’ve known, I want them to be happy and to succeed.  I want it for them.  But you know, I also want it for me.  When they fail, I feel like I’ve done something wrong, I’ve let them down, I didn’t say the right thing, I didn’t respond in the right way and I realize I expect perfection.  Not just from them, but from myself.  What a burden I have put on, not only myself, but my family.  I pray that they will forgive me and that I will forgive myself.

But then I look away from myself and I am reminded that God loves me and I love my children.  When they fail, or when they fail my expectations, I don’t stop loving them, I don’t see them as failures, I see them as my children whom I love dearly.  It’s not about what they do or don’t do, it’s about them – it’s about love.

Gardenias with quote

By Tami Munden

Teaching Styles

As I was preparing to write about teaching styles, I was thinking about how homeschoolers teach and wondering what kind of information would be useful. After a bit of research, I found that regardless of which curriculum we use, we each have a method of teaching, a philosophy of education, a view of how and what our children should learn and a style that is unique to us. Thus, despite the fact that we teach in a different environment than most teachers, the classical definitions and information about teaching styles are still relevant.

Reading about the various styles, made me think about my teaching style and I realized it varies from subject to subject, child to child, as well as environment and audience. As you look at some of the definitions and styles below, remember, your style will and should vary and it may not always be the best one for your child. You may have to adapt to another style. Hopefully by learning the different methods that can be employed in teaching, we can become more competent and flexible teachers.

One of the sites I found on learning discusses five different styles of teaching.

  • Direct Instruction
  • Indirect Instruction
  • Discussion
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Self-Directed Learning

These styles deal with the way we interact with our students. Do we lecture (direct instruction), do we give some information then expect the student to continue the process (indirect method), do we discuss or allow discussion to occur, do we let our children work together to research and explore a subject, or do we allow self-directed learning where the student researches and learns on his own? Hopefully, to allow the most benefit to our child/children, we use a combination of styles, evaluate their effectiveness, and make changes as needed. It’s also important to remember that what works for one subject or one child may not work as well for other subjects or children.

Teaching Style/Learning Hierarchy

One school of thought in learning is Blooms Hierarchy of Learning. Bloom breaks learning into three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Each of these domains addresses a different aspect of the child’s learning. While I believe we need to be teaching the ‘whole’ child, I will focus only on the intellectual/cognitive domain for now.

The Cognitive Domain deals with the way we take in and process information, our intellectual ability. Understanding these are critical to teaching style, because we want to make sure we are teaching so the child will develop in all of the following areas:

  • Knowledge – recall of data
  • Comprehension – understanding information
  • Application – applying knowledge to a new situation
  • Analysis – separates information into parts for better understanding
  • Synthesis – builds a pattern from diverse elements
  • Evaluation – judges the value of information

Your child can develop all these abilities from your teaching with any of the styles listed above, but some are more conducive than others towards the various intellectual abilities. As you use the direct method of teaching, lecturing and informing the student, he/she will learn to recall and understand. With the indirect method, you will be helping them apply knowledge they have to new situations. By discussing and working in cooperative groups, they learn to analyze information, and come up with questions, independent thoughts and ideas (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). Through self-directed learning they learn to put all of their learning abilities to use in a constructive manner.

Off subject a bit, but relevant…

When I was taking classes on education at FSU and UNC Charlotte, one thing that was discussed was the value of teaching children to think. One professor lectured that when we teach children to answer questions, fill in the blanks, and succeed in tests, we are teaching them to answer questions, fill in blanks, and be good test takers, but we are not teaching them to think. After the class, it was interesting listening to the students comments on the lecture, most were ‘what in the world was he talking about.’ As homeschool parents, we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to make sure we are raising thinkers, not just children who know how to give the right answer.

The other thing I heard discussed was the lack of writing assignments given to a child. There is a quote I like, though I’m not sure who it is by, that says ‘When I write, I learn.’ I think this is true, but there is more to it. Writing makes a student formulate ideas, think through and logically order information, it helps them remember what they have learned, and can do much more if the student is challenged to write a variety of types of writing. Writing can take us from the lowest form of learning, the basic knowledge about a subject, to understanding, applying, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. It can do this because it requires thinking about the subject and coming up with ways to express oneself. But, what if your child hates to write?

Homeschooling offers many answers for this too. Since we have so few to teach, we can take time to listen and discuss issues, topics, subjects and so on, with each of our children individually or in a group. Computers offer the ability to write without having to use a pen to do so, and tape recorders can be used to tape thoughts and ideas when we don’t have time to sit and listen at the moment. The idea here is to get the child to think about what he is learning, to be able to express him/herself in a logical, concise manner, to be able to rationalize their thought process, and to push them into deeper thinking skills and abilities.

Take some time to reflect on how you teach – your teaching style.  Is it working for you and your student?  Being aware of how our teaching styles effect our students, setting goals for different types of learning to take place, along with learning and trying new teaching styles can help us become more competent teachers.  As we learn what works and doesn’t work with our children, we will be better enabled to help them in their quest for knowledge.

By Tami Munden

Learning Styles

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” Part of respecting the ‘pupil’ is understanding them; learning their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, the way they learn… their ‘style’.

Think of how frustrating it is when someone wants you to understand something, but they don’t take time to explain it in a way you understand. Our children can get frustrated when we expect them to learn, but aren’t communicating in a manner they can grasp.

Feet in shallow water, Bible verse about being wonderfully made

God created us that way, so we can’t all be expected to think, learn and process information in the same way. There are many different studies, tests, and philosophies of learning that discuss various aspects of learning. The bottom line though, boils down to the fact that we are all unique individuals, with a myriad of different ways we learn. In teaching, our goal is to learn our child’s ‘style’ and encourage them in their strengths, help them in their weaknesses and develop them into the person God created them to be.

As we seek to understand how our child/children learn, it helps to have an understanding of some of the different philosophies of learning. One way of understanding learning is ‘how do we best take in information?’ The auditory/visual/kinesthetic approach says that most of us will learn best in one or a combination of these styles.

When children are young, most will be kinesthetic learners, they want to touch, feel, experience the world around them. As they grow they can continue to be kinesthetic learners, which means they will learn best by doing and experiencing, others will develop into more auditory or visual learners. The auditory learner will learn best when they hear what they need to learn and the visual needs to see it.

Beyond this though are many varied ways people learn. Think about it, do you learn best by reading, having someone explain? Do you need to take notes as you read or listen? Do you learn best in a quiet place or in a busy, noisy place? Do you learn best sitting up straight at a table, lying on the floor, sitting under a tree outside? Watch your child, how does he/she seem to learn best?

Processing information involves how we take in information, how we file it, and then how we use it. I always thought it was interesting how one of my daughters liked to have the ‘big’ picture first, then the details would fall into place. She could make the jumps from the steps almost intuitively once she understood the whole. On the other hand, my other daughter didn’t want to know the whole, she wanted the steps. She liked to know how to get from step one to step two. If I tried to show her the large picture, I would just end up frustrating her, whereas my other daughter would get frustrated by the steps if she didn’t ‘see’ the large picture first.

The way we learn effects the way we teach. We tend to expect our children to learn in the same way we do. If we were in a classroom situation with 20 to 30+ children it would be hard to give each child individual attention and to attempt to learn his or her unique strengths and abilities as well as weaknesses and disabilities. Our situation is different though, thankfully. We have the opportunity to get to know our students style and not only that, we have the joy of getting to know our child/children and see them flourish in an environment that supports their uniqueness and cherishes their God given strengths as well as their God given weaknesses.

There are many sources and resources out there to help you determine yours and your child’s learning style. Do a search on the internet or go to the library and check out some books that will help you understand some of the various philosophies. Most importantly though, take the time to respect your student, learn his/her style, and watch them flourish.

By Tami Munden

Decisive Element

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” – Haim Ginott

Sometimes I read this quote and think “I sure hope this isn’t true!” but then I see the truth in it.  I love the teachings of Steve Brown, he is so quick to affirm God’s love for me, His unconditional love for me, to remind me that I am a child of God and can call Him Abba Father.  What great peace of mind this gives me.  Sometimes when I feel like a failure, when I am a failure, when I’m reminded of my fallenness, it’s easy to want to hide from it.  To act like I have it all together and am ‘saved;’ saved so I can appear to others as being Holy and Righteous in myself.  But I’m not.  I’m saved so I can be naked and unashamed, so I can be transparent in my weakness and yet know that I am loved and cherished.

When I think on the above quote, I see my successes and I smile, but then I quickly remember my failures and honestly I want to hide from them.  But God calls us to be vulnerable and to help each other through our ups and our downs, not just our ups.

I remember a day when my daughter questioned something the science book was teaching, I got irritated – ‘I didn’t write this, it’s not my opinion, it’s what is.’ Instead of nurturing her, I got frustrated – I didn’t have a better answer and she just had to accept what the book said.  I look back on that day now and wish I would have said, ‘That’s an interesting point you are making – we should do some research and find out why they say that.’ But no, I just moved on and, at least for that moment, squashed her inquisitiveness.  I can’t say I always did that, there were times I would stop, change directions and go with the flow of learning and inquiry, but not always.

Alvastra Cloister Ruin

I think back to teachers that inspired me and I realize they set the mood, the tone of their classroom and geared it towards enlightenment, wonder, and acceptance.  They shared their love for learning with me and I drank it in.  Others, the ones I felt stifled by, tried to squash the inquisitiveness; they set their stage and went with their set agenda even if it wasn’t working.  They were more interested in teaching the lesson, as I was that day with my daughter, than they were in inspiring the student to a love of learning.

We, as homeschool parents, have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.  We take it willingly and with love, but we have to remember that we are the decisive element in our child’s learning.  He can inspire or squash, and unlike when I was growing up and had some good teachers that did inspire and some bad ones, we are their only teachers, so we must be all the more aware of the responsibility we have.

Given that, it is important that we remember Who is the decisive element in our lives.  We need to remember God’s love for us, His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness.  We need to remember that He sent Jesus as our Savior, not because we’re great people without any faults, but because we actually need a Savior.  We are fallen people in a fallen world and, where one day there will be a new heaven and earth with no more sin and death, that day isn’t today.  We strive to be the best we can be, not to earn any medal, but because we are loved.  We strive to be that positive decisive element in our classroom, not because we are perfect, but because we love.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more! ~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Daily Scripture Readings for Advent 2013 – because Christmas DOES mean so much more.

Christmas Trees in a row