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Encouraging Kids Along the Path to Learning

The words path to learning offer us a great word picture. Word pictures (metaphors) can help us visualize and grab hold of a big concept and a deep meaning.

The word "education" is not a word picture. While the word "education" has plenty of meaning, it's hard to picture. And the word itself may not offer us inspiration as we teach our children. But when we hear the words "path to learning" in our mind's eye we can visualize an actual path. What do we see? I see a gently winding lane where many others have walked before. Such a path looks and sounds inviting. A path offers a way and a destination, or the path wouldn't exist. Paths also promise worthwhile things to see, hear and enjoy along the way to the destination. Similarly, a "path to learning" is a path. Like the walking-path it summons up for us the knowledge that the path will be walked, not raced. A learning path also offers us the idea that we'll find as much value on the way as at the destination.

As parents who teach our children it can help to picture daily life as a "learning path" and that we're on it with our kids. Sometimes our kids are running ahead on the path. Sometimes they're tired and want to stop for that drink we've brought along. Sometimes we're the tired ones. Sometimes we find a great place to stop for a rest. Even when we stop, that doesn't mean the learning stops. "There's a bird!" "Here's a new pine tree only four inches high!"

Paths, truly, are meant for walking. Learning is like that too. Most of the time the pace of learning is not very fast. Yet it's enjoyable, even in bits. Learning to read one word is just as exciting as learning to read a chapter. That's what's so great about walking-a-path versus racing down a highway. On the path there's time to encourage and celebrate our children as they learn bits, letters and words. In the process we get a kick out of it ourselves, and learn more about each of them and how they learn.

Sometimes we wonder if we've wandered off the path and if we're now lost. That "are we lost?" feeling can happen while we're walking a path. Paths are not four-lane. Paths don't have large green signs above them announcing each destination. Paths can dwindle down from a well-trodden space and can seem to all but disappear. When that happens, we look for marks such as splotches of red paint that others, who've walked the path before us, have left on stones. These marks let us know that the path is veering or turning, and that it's still there. Those who've gone before us, who've been teaching their own children for a long time, are here to offer those markers. When learning doesn't seem to be happening, consider looking closer. Maybe learning is happening, but at a slower pace than we want. Sometimes, when we're pointing to a bird high up in a tree, our kids are exploring the four-inch high pine tree. The path to learning is like that. And aren't we glad!



Virginia Vagt is a writer, speaker, editor and 13-year veteran homeschooling mom

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