A couple of weeks ago, Gemma-Rose thrust her feet towards me and said, “Please can you lace up my shoes for me, Mum?”

I was busy tying my own laces so I replied, “Can’t you do up your own shoes?”

Gemma-Rose shook her head and I was aghast. My youngest daughter is eight years old and somehow I forgot to teach her how to tie shoe laces! And then I remembered something: These were new shoes, her first pair of lace-up shoes. She’s always had the Velcro-fastening kind before.

We were in a hurry to get out the door and down to the playing fields, so I didn’t stop and demonstrate lace tying. Instead, I did them up for her myself.

And apparently Imogen did them up for Gemma-Rose the next day and the next and…

Then last Monday as we were preparing for our morning run, I said, “Come over here, if you want me to help you with those shoes.”

“It’s OK, Mum. I can tie them myself.”

“But I didn’t show you how. How did you learn?”

“I asked Charlotte to tie my shoes for me after swimming on Saturday and she didn’t really want to, so she just showed me how to do it myself.”

Three weeks ago Gemma-Rose had no lace tying need: she didn’t own shoes with laces. Last week she had no need: she had willing helpers to do the job for her. This week because of need, she is a now a fully qualified shoe-lacer-upper.

The best motivation for learning is obviously need.

So now Gemma-Rose can tie laces. But what else have I forgotten to teach her, that she should already know? And what are the ‘essentials’ she needs to learn before her homeschooling education is over? How will I make sure I have everything covered?

John Holt said:

 Since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.

I think about this. How can I possibly know what sort of world Gemma-Rose will be moving into when she is grown up? The world is changing so quickly that I have no idea what it will be like in a few years’ time.

After graduating from university, my husband Andy worked in the same industry for 25 years and then his job disappeared. He had the opportunity to do a post-graduate degree and study for a whole new career. And although Andy was excited at the prospect, he was a little nervous too.

“The world has changed so much since I last attended uni,” he confided to me. “We didn’t even use computers when I did my last degree. Will I be able to cope? All the other students will be young and they’ll be familiar with the modern way of learning.”

I assured Andy he’d have no problems at all. He’d soon pick up all he needed to know. And he did. He graduated in the top 2% of his year, and became my Dean’s Medallist of a Husband. I was a delighted and very proud wife. Until the medal was actually placed in his hand, Andy had difficulty believing his achievement, which was rather silly. Andy is a father who loves to learn. And so he had no trouble learning what he needed to know.

But back to Gemma-Rose:

With such an unpredictable future, should I try and stuff as much knowledge into her as possible… just in case?

Or should I just encourage her love of learning, and then trust she will learn everything she needs to know?

PS I forgot to include something very important: What our children really need to learn is to love and trust God. And so do we. How can we trust our children if we do not first trust God. Please see Victor's comment. Thank you Victor!

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  1. This is a very well thought out and written post. It's true that good parents worry about their children's future and wish/hope to teach them every thing they know. But what we know as parents is not always relevant to tomorrow's world. We may not have had computers when we were young, so to teach a child to use parchment paper and quills (as I tried to do) would have been both wasteful and irrelevant. Besides, chasing after geese for yet another feather was too tiresome, especially when one slipped on their "deposits" and fell flat on one's posterior.

    On reflection, one important thing to teach children which will stand them in good stead in life and beyond is to love and trust God.

    May He bless you and yours.

    1. Victor,

      You are quite right: the reason we try and teach our children as much as possible is because we worry about their futures. We do it because we love and we care. The only problem is there is no end to what we could expose them to. And then we start to despair or get anxious over the choices we have had to make.

      Funny, you should mention the parchment and the quills. I've been wondering if beautiful handwriting with an ordinary pen is actually essential in this age of computers. Will handwriting eventually go the same way as calligraphy? Though buying a pen is much easier than catching a goose...

      And I am so glad you wrote the last paragraph. In order to trust our children, we also need to trust and love God and that is the most important thing we can pass onto our children. I left out something essential. Maybe I should rewrite my post...

      God bless you!

  2. So much good stuff here. Thank you, Sue, for continuing to write these posts. They are the little lift I need to keep exploring natural learning.

    Funny you are talking about the handwriting issue. It has been a struggle here lately and I have stopped pushing it. I wonder the same thing -- how necessary is it? Sure, you need to be able to DO it, but how much time should be spent past making sure it is legible? Since Olivia's issue with it seems to be the amount, she has just been practicing individual letters a few times a week. I also bought myself an inexpensive calligraphy set and am going to sit and be an example. Recently too it seems that God is strewing my path-- I have come across two examples in the past couple of days about the preference of using cursive with young children instead of print. I may see if she wants to learn "fancy writing" instead.

    1. Pam,

      My third child, Callum has awful handwriting. Years ago, I spent so much time badgering him about it: "How will you manage when you go to university. If no one can read your assignments, they won't be marked." The funny thing is handwritten assignments are no longer acceptable! Everything has to be typed. So far Callum hasn't needed beautiful handwriting but if he comes and tells me I should have made him practice, I shall tell him it's not too late. He has a need, now go and learn.

      I used to have beautiful handwriting and then somewhere along the line I got sloppy and lazy. These days I prefer to type all my letters using a handwriting font. I guess I'm not a good role model for handwriting.

      I think when our children write beautifully it can make us feel good. It is impressive and reflects on us and our teaching methods. The question is whether it's worth it if a child isn't cooperating or capable.

      Calligraphy? Our girls all have calligraphy pens and instruction books. Sometimes they like to add beautiful letters to their craft projects. They have great fun!

      I wonder if Gemma-Rose would like to learn cursive writing. Thank you for the reminder. I forget to suggest things to her. It's hard being the youngest! At the moment she is typing all her stories on a netbook computer. She's copying me and her older sisters!

      Thank you for your comment, Pam. I enjoy discussing things with you.

      God bless!


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