The right kind of learning

It’s a bit of a surprise to me, when I think about it, that neither of my kids is interested in sports.   Not in playing and not in watching, either.   I grew up watching the Cincinnati Reds baseball and Indiana University basketball.  (Or any basketball, really.  It’s the state past-time.)   I could shoot a game of HORSE as well as anyone, and I was a gymnast from the time I was six years old until the age of 14.   To this day I love watching tennis, dance, gymnastics and figure skating.  My baseball allegiance now lies with the Yankees, and I enjoy watching pro soccer.

My kids could care less.    They’ve both tried various sports; Maya did gymnastics for a couple of years, as well as rock-climbing and tennis.  Ben tried rock-climbing & karate.   Nothing stuck for either of them.   When Joshua and I watch soccer or baseball (or on rare occasions – like when the Giants played in the Superbowl – football) and we yell when our team scores or wins, the kids cover their ears and tell us we’re being too loud.

And sometimes I think, “How did this happen?”

At the ages of almost 12 and 8, it also surprises me now and then how little interest they have in what might be termed “academic” pursuits.   Sometimes I think we are the only family who doesn’t live for the next “educational” opportunity, whether it comes by way of a field trip to a museum or an independent science class or math club.   Interest in history is lukewarm at best (except for our own family history which is pretty interesting as my Dad’s family came here in 1741 and my great grandfather 5 times removed fought in the American Revolution).    Ben is interested in evolution and the universe, kind of on his own and with no great focus.

Literature?  I’ve read Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson out loud to them, but they prefer to read on their own, and not classics.   Maya loves post-apocolyptic books about dystopian societies that are a mix of horror, science fiction and fantasy.   Ben does as well, but leans more towards the science fiction end of things.  (Although to be fair he is currently reading Carl Hiassen’s Scat).   The both read all the time, but nothing that would be chosen in schools.

There are days when I chalk all this up to massive failures on my part.   Maybe I should encourage the reading of more historical fiction, or biographies; maybe I should put on The Civil War series in the evening instead of laughing with my kids at the comments of Adam Levine and Blake Shelton on “The Voice”.    Maybe I should do more strewing of books related to astronomy and science; or maybe I should make sure we spend some time each day exploring nature.   Maybe we should play more games as a family; games that teach deductive reasoning or math.

Maybe I should insist they play a sport, or run, or do yoga.

Then again, maybe not.

Most of the time I remind myself that Joshua and I trust our kids.   We trust that their interests are valid even when they don’t coincide with our own; even when they do not match what appears in a curriculum.   We trust that we are exposing them to the world and incorporating them into the every day workings of our lives in ways that will benefit and inspire them.   We trust them to ask questions about things they see and read.  We trust that they will learn the things they need to know;  and that they will follow their passions in a way that is fulfilling for them.   We know that we will be there to guide and help them along the way, as much as possible.

Often the ideas and their execution will be all their own.

As an example, I’m going to tell you about Maya’s latest venture.   Yesterday she received two packages in the mail, each of which contained 30 “squishies”.  For those of you who don’t know, this is a squishy:

Donut shaped squishy

They are made of foam rubber and are designed to hang on bags or phones or whatever.  They come in different shapes and they are all the rage among those of Maya’s age who trade on YouTube.  (We met two of Maya’s trading friends while we were in California.)

Yesterday Maya got all these squishies in the mail.  She ordered them to sell on a YouTube “shop”.   She bought them with her money from a wholesaler at roughly $1 each, and will sell them on YouTube for $3 each, plus shipping. I helped her figure out shipping costs.  She told me she chose the price by watching what other people offer and for how much, and she chose the type of squishies by watching what is in demand, as well as conducting a poll of potential buyers, asking them what kind they would most like.   I don’t know how she found the supplier (she says everyone knows who they are).   In addition to the squishies, she is offering a certain type of popular notebook and a few other things.

She put up her shop on YouTube, consisting of a video in which you hear her voice and she shows the items for sale, last night, and has received 10 orders so far.   She has already made back the money she spent.   Thursdays will be the day we head to the post office to send everything out (of course not until she’s received payment).

As she told me all this, and how she would keep track of orders, etc., all I kept thinking was, “How does she know how to do this?  She certainly didn’t learn it from me!”   Joshua is a great businessman, but it’s not like he sat down with her and taught her how to do market research and then calculate her cost and sales price in order to offer good value while still making a profit.   She did that.    The only question she had was about how to calculate shipping.

Is what she’s doing the “right” kind of learning?   I think so.  No, it’s not poetry or classic literature or marine biology.   That may come later, but it may not.  Will I be disappointed if Maya doesn’t develop a love of Shakespeare?   I doubt it, as long as she is happy and passionate about her life and her chosen work, whatever that may be.

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