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Role Reversal! Unexpected Lessons from When My Children Taught Me...

© Beverley Paine

I am learning to play one of the children's favourite role playing computer games.

Computer games worry me - not that I dislike my children playing them, especially as they have a restricted time limit they happily work to, but because I am frightened of looking like a fool, or 'messing up', of accidentally 'killing' my character. I have seen the children emerge from such games flushed with an adrenalin rush... could I, an old timer, cope?

I have also seen adults become addicted to computer games, even mundane ones like Solitaire.... this I want to avoid!

Well, last week I took the plunge and some interesting things developed.

Roger and Thomas are keen to help me develop my character's attributes, but they chastise me for silly mistakes, like walking into walls (unfamiliar with the mouse controls). Because I am twenty plus years older than them I tolerate their frustrated cries and critical comments, but find the comments still sting, especially when the game hots up and action is needed rapidly and help would be more useful than criticism!

I have found the boys have little tolerance for my learning process. Comments such as:

"How come you don't learn the first time?"
"I've shown you how to do that LOTS of times!"
"You just don't learn!"
"How come you never remember?"

My responses vary from groans, sighs, and frustrated cries of "I give up!"

Thomas refuses to watch me play now. He's frustrated that he can't take over the controls, desperate to demonstrate how the game should be played, rather than put up with my clumsy and repetitive mistakes... I'm not allowed to fumble through, make my own mistakes as I discover the nuances of game play. He knows the easy way and wants me to listen to his tips and hints and learn all the short cuts. But I'm not so sure it's the best way to learn...

Something about all this sounds dreadfully familiar. And I can't help smiling: Once again my children have taught me a few things about the nature of teaching and the nature of learning.

I've found I like to learn by myself, in my own time, when I'm ready, feel motivated and confident. I want to call the shots. And I want some help available, but only when I call for it. I want someone to keep an eye on me, to wisely share some helpful tips, but without giving me the solutions. I like to be gently led... I don't want to be rushed. I don't want to be continually reminded just how much of a novice I am. I want my helper to be endlessly patient. I want recognition of when I do well: I want them to be excited about my learning success, just as I am, but not to take the credit
for it.

As to teaching, well, I am totally surprised to find this huge innate drive in Thomas to teach.... and to teach in the time honoured way that I have come to hate - the way teachers teach in school... I had to ask myself: Did I teach my children like this; did I railroad their learning sensibilities in this way despite their continual and much maligned resistance. Learning a skill they have already mastered has given me a taste of my own medicine!

My foray into learning how to play a popular computer game taught me that the combination of child as teacher and Beverley as learner is just as frustrating as the combination of child as learner and Beverley as teacher!

We need to move beyond this uncomfortable method of instruction and find solutions that satisfy the both our needs. I'm sure it can be done; just wish I'd worked this out sooner!

Had someone told me I would learn so much about the nature of learning and teaching from playing a computer game I wouldn't have believed them. Once again one of my interests has turned into an exploration about the nature of learning, and a topic for homeschooling discussion!

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the
World of Home Education
and Learning without School!

We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!

The information on this website is of
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