Learning through Risk

Now this is a dilemma worth having. A homeschooling mother documents the rise and fall of her children’s home made fort.

Firstly, what a great construction. You can immediately see the lessons of stability and structure that the kids are trying to understand. And wow, they somehow got that nailed or screwed together like that. It fell over. Brilliant! I don’t read anything about what they learnt about the technical and safety issues but there’s a host of material there and that provides real tacit learning they will never forget and might take another child to grow up, do an engineering or building degree or never understand.

Secondly, pedagogy. The trickiest part of homeschooling is that parents aren’t professional educators BUT you need to treat yourself as if you are. And the professional, essentially, is a person who can think independently in a problem solving situation. Often that means by asking a dozen questions of the situation so the correct method can be applied. You would be quite right to ask about safety. And here the parents are also doing some action research (some people get paid to do it). The dissonance described is very important. It is being alert to the nagging question that something needs to be resolved. To me it is all about the competence of children to be independent in various situations, and the competence comes from the communication with their parents. So the questions to get truthful about are: am I being a great communicator with my children?; and, for this particular situation, can I mentor my children appropriately to the task? Technical know-how might need to come from a third source but requires great communication from the parents in any case. Safety and competence increases as these two things converge in a wonderful interaction of enquiry and action.

Thirdly, risk is culturally determined. We can actually take more risk in western society because of the good access to emergency medicine if things go wrong. In some parts of the world, even today, failure, a broken leg, means death. Therefore small children might be closer to mothers because of large environmental risk, than even in our clingy society, yet are quickly moved on to a more competent phase. A child of 12 is really doing everything an adult would do and understanding the risks. There is capacity for competence in risk analysis as well.

A word on independence. This does not mean alone. It means confidence with your own abilities of mind. And those abilities are social, metaphorical, technical, and spiritual. Together they mean bringing your best game to working well in teams or as a society.

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