Learn to fail, fail in order to learn

My kids were both at day camps this week. The house has been delightfully quiet during the day. I keep thinking, is this what it’s like for people who don’t homeschool?!? SO QUIET.

Both kids are busing to and from their camps. This means getting up earlier than usual (setting an alarm!) and getting out the door, getting the correct buses, attending camp, and finding their way home. And, all week, we have been letting the kids fail.

Didn’t get all your chores done before it was time to leave? Too bad, now you can do them when you get home and are tired and crabby. Didn’t set your alarm? Well, you can call the camp and tell them you are going to be late. Didn’t pay attention to the bus route and have ended up on the far side of the city? Okay, in that case we did go pick the poor soul up. But they still had to bus the next day.

When the kids protested our measures, when we pointed out that they messed something up and now had to fix it themselves, they were vaguely outraged. “It’s not fair!” we were told. But we pointed out that this was practice for doing all of these things on their own in a few years. That getting to work on time was not particularly optional, that employers and teachers really did not care in the slightest whether or not you like your alarm clock. It’s up to YOU to solve the problem.

In addition, the camp that K is at is a Spanish-language camp at which she is the teacher’s assistant. She is the big kid, the teenager, the aide. She is wrangling 3-4 year-olds for five hours. She comes home each afternoon completely exhausted. It’s highly educational for her. And … and I think she appreciates it. We’ve entered the era of giving the kids lots of little volunteer opportunities so that they can start getting a handle on what sort of work they might enjoy. These short volunteer experiences lead to larger ones later, lead to part-time jobs, lead to recommendation and resume items. Or, they don’t! Better to learn now that one cannot stand wrangling younger kids than a month into a three-month job.

We learn from failures. I keep telling the kids this, every time they are upset at not getting something right the first time. “If you got it right the first time,” I tell them, “I’d have you do something harder.” It’s when we do not know how to do something, and we mess it up a bit or are imperfect, and we improve and grow and change, that we learn. If we only ever do things we are good at right away we stagnate, stall, and congeal. Failure, and LEARNING from failure, are vital to growth.

By today, the last day of this week’s day camps, both kids got up on time, ready on time, and out the door on time. Learning has occurred.



2 Responses

  1. An inspiration I appreciated today. Thanks.

  2. Yep. I think of this all the time with our teenager. He is 19, so the level of responsibility is higher. I have been impressed with how well he is doing.

    For example, last weekend he and a friend imbibed rather too much at a party. He cleaned up the messes they each left on the floor. No griping, just promises that he would never make that particular mistake again.

    It is our goal to give him a safe environment where he can experiment and fail. So far it seems to be working.

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