Saturday, April 25, 2015

Doing the hard stuff

When I started teaching my granbeanie she was in the second grade and my lessons were hit and miss.  I was still working a job and didn't have much time.  This year, her third grade, we've done much better.  I thought about this child, how smart she is and how unwilling she is to fail, and as a consequence of that, how unwilling she is to try new and difficult things. So I set about two tasks for her first half of the year: She would type every day and she would learn to actually throw a pot on the potter's wheel.  My goal was not so much for her to become a speedy typist or a practicing potter, but to teach her that with repeated practice and work she can do hard things.

In the second half of the year, I let both these go in order to teach her the more usual things a third-grader must learn: long division, sentence structure, American history, spelling.  I tried to put things in context for her and it struck me that she needed a project that would tie together many of the things she has learned.

She decided on having a crafts booth at our local farmers market.  At first she wanted to knit things for it.  So I showed her how to knit.  I encouraged her to use what we already own, to cut down on the costs of production.  She made some slab pots and painted rocks.  We made some potholders. She made bracelets and charms.  We even have a hamburger paperweight!

What did she learn? How did I teach?

She learned that one has to have capital or existing resources to begin an entrepreneurial project. She learned that the first money earned goes toward paying expenses and that profit begins when expenses are repaid.  She learned that craftsmanship matters. She learned to produce stuff efficiently. She has learned that one must provide a variety of items at different price points.  She has learned to price her work by a) what she has in it (materials, time, skill) and b) by what the market will bear. She also learned how to write out a spreadsheet with costs and projected income.  She knows the break-even point.  The most important thing she has learned is that all of this is within her power to control.  Simply put, that she can do this.

I taught her some craft skills, a little math and how to round numbers and perform calculations in her head, a little about business, a little about marketing, and a bit about English.  I made her write at every stage of this project about what we were doing.  I had a silent laugh when I read her final essay where she said, "Knitting takes too long!"

Now, here's what I learned:  That I could homeschool this child, so precious to me.  I learned I could pass on skills I know she'll need along with the subjects she has to have. I learned that everyone learns better when skills are put into proper context. I guess you could say that we both learned that we could do the hard stuff!

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