Thursday, January 15, 2009

Participating in Your Children's Education

As a nontrad, I am pulled in several different directions at once - work demands, family demands and school demands. So when some of those demands blend together and become less demanding, it's a nice experience.

Several nights ago, I was standing in the kitchen eating my dinner. (I had gotten home from school late and was starving!) My daughter walked in and we began talking about the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990's. Megan is taking a Creative Writing class in school and they are learning how to write personal narratives. As an example, the teacher read to the class from the introduction of the book that the movie "Hotel Rwanda" is based on. Megan said she was shocked by what the author had to say, his experience and his perspective on the whole event. I had to do a project last semester in my history class re: the genocide in Rwanda. I purchased Gen. (Ret.) Dallaire's book, "Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda". Gen. Dallaire was the commander of the UN peacekeeping troops in Rwanda. Megan and I talked about the Rwandan genocide and both the US's and UN's failure to respond to it. She had some very probing questions. I took her to Gen. Dallaire's book and to some other research I had done. Megan was shocked that such an event could happen and that she didn't know anything about it (she was 3 at the time it occurred).

I was excited to be able to engage Megan in conversation about an event that is part of history, albeit not a very good part. She was excited to learn about primary sources (Gen. Dallaire's book), that not all events of that caliper make the news and that she could have an active part in learning about history. Megan told me that most of her history books and classes were very boring. I emailed my history prof and related the experience I had with Megan. He said he fondly remembers "teaching moments" with his own children.

As parents, we need to be participating in our children's education. That doesn't just mean helping them with their homework or chaperoning field trips. That means engaging them in conversation about what they are learning, listening to their thoughts and comments about the subjects they are exposed to, and creating an atmosphere where they can ask questions and not feel silly or stupid for asking those questions. Participating in your children's education is like digging with them in the dirt for worms. You show them where to dig, give them the proper tools to dig with, teach them how to dig and then you find that wriggly worm to put in the can. The wriggly worm is their question. It may seem a little uncomfortable or you may not know what to do with the worm, but you still need to pick it up, look at it and put it in the can. You'll get your hands dirty and it may get a tad smelly, but that's okay. In the end, the worm is in the can and you can go fishing!

If you're a nontrad and a parent, take time out of your education to participate in your children's education, too. It doesn't matter if they are in Kindergarten or a senior in college. You'll learn some really cool stuff from one another.

Stay tuned . . . . .

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