Saturday, October 20, 2007

Learning is Not Always Fun, Which Is a Good Thing

Last month I wrote a long piece about the fact that learning is not always fun. I meant homeschooling and learning as a child, that was my reason for writing it, about children learning and homeschooling. However I also mean that real life learning as and adult is also not always fun. I am having trouble editing down my piece to make it succinct.

Anyhow right now I am trying to teach myself what would seem to be a simple and common task with my Photoshop Elements computer software program. I can not find any simple way to do what I perceive to be a simple task.

I am so frustrated right now that I could scream. I have at my disposal a gigantic instruction manual on the screen (within the program). Yet I cannot figure out how to do what I need to do. And I’m calm, and not screaming.

I have resisted two temptations already to procrastinate. I have a deadline that I am under and I need to learn this today. Period.

This brought to my mind just now, the fact that yet again I am aware that learning new things is not always fun or easy. It can be very annoying and a test of ones’ patience. It can be downright frustrating and it can cause anger. Fear is there too, especially as I’m working under a deadline. I don’t want to give up but it seems the easiest thing to do. My deadline, though, is a responsibility and I don’t want to shirk that. I want to fulfill my obligation. Did I mention this whole project was supposed to be fun??

Let’s remember that I am adult who is pretty in control of my emotions. I have learned to not act out physically or to lash out verbally. Since having children I have also learned to kick the old habit of using profanity. While working I also had edited out almost all slang, as my former jobs required a professional demeanor with customers and to not use slang was a sign of a more mature, competent professional person, with one’s co-workers and superiors.

Children, especially young children such as in elementary grades, don’t yet have full control of their physical and verbal outbursts. They are learning it over time, to control outburst or to censor their behaviors to conform to society’s rules and norms.

I feel the need to just blog right now that all learning is not fun. I understand and agree that it is great to have some fun in the homeschooling environment we create for our children. But I feel we are doing a disservice to our children if we somehow convey to them that all learning should be fun or else it is not worthy of doing or should be avoided. If you are one of those homeschooling parents who does that, who gives their children the impression that everything should always be fun, I think you are setting your children up for failure in many areas of life. I’m sorry, but many things in life are not fun and games and learning even something as optional as using a photo altering computer program can be a hassle. Doing laundry, housecleaning, cooking healthy meals and even some personal grooming tasks (clipping toenails, shaving, even showering) can be perceived as ‘not fun’ by some people but those things are part of taking care of our bodies and health! Who thinks that a pelvic exam for women is fun, or a prostate exam for men is fun? Who thinks filing paperwork and keeping good financial records or paying bills is fun? Who thinks that getting blood drawn or a mammogram or a teeth cleaning is fun? There are many mandatory and important things in life that people have to do and learn which will just have to be learned and done even if they contain a fun factor of zero.

What comes to mind for example is looking for some ‘perfect’ reading curriculum which is ALL fun and games that clicks well with every child and will somehow get every child reading with basically zero amount of effort or no negative emotions. I’m not sure that is possible. With my older son, at age 5.5 when he had all signs of reading readiness, we started doing 5-10 minutes of a phonics curriculum. Sometimes it stretched to 15 minutes. My goal was to stop before true frustration set in, and definitely before tears. Those 5-10 minutes were not all fun and games, they took effort and my son slowly sounded out the words for months and months. I will admit that it was sometimes torture for me to just sit and listen to the slow sounding out of the words. I used to have to take deep breaths to try to keep myself from getting angry. It just frustrated me that it was not coming as easy to him as I wished that it would.

And it was B-O-R-I-N-G for me to sit through all that sounding out. I remember my friend (who uses school for her kids) asked me if homeschooling was fun for ME. That was right at this time period. I said, “No it is not ALL fun for me but it is not about ME it is about me being patient with my son and helping him learn.” She said she could never homeschool unless it was all fun for HER. I tried to explain that overall I enjoyed mothering my boys and being with them and overall homeschooling them but it doesn’t mean that sitting to do a short phonics lesson was actually a fun thing. Anyhow I never let my son see that I was bored and he only saw my frustration a few times over many months of teaching him to read.

I firmly believe that a child doing 5-10 minutes of this type of work four or five days a week is not torture by any means. I would argue that it builds character. It shows that some things worth learning take some effort and patience. Not everything can be learned in one lesson on one day, some things take a short learning time spread over many months to complete, which demonstrates persistence.

One other thing about this is that when comparing homeschooling to school, the 5-10 minutes of hard work I feel is much less problematic than what some schooled children have to endure. First off, at least in my family, the learning is geared toward readiness. Just think of what a child goes through who is being forced in school to learn to read when they are truly not developmentally ready goes through, just because they happen to be put into a certain grade and in that grade X is being taught. Just think of even a not-struggling schooled kid goes through if they spent 30 or 45 minutes doing ‘learning reading’ work per day. Think of the frustration felt by some students due to not getting 1:1 teaching? Now doing 1:1 teaching at home at the right learning stage and time/age for 5-10 minutes seems like NOTHING to complain about in my eyes! I’d rather my sons work hard and ‘not have fun’ for 5-10 minutes with me at home than go through what schooled kids go through.

I feel that as a homeschooling mother, helping my children tackle small challenges over a long period of time (taking months to learn to read or many years of homeschooling with various small challenges along the way), in the gentle and loving environment of our home with me, a mother who loves her children dearly, is actually helping them become more independent and self-reliant, in a big picture type of way. The contrast to this would be the mother who tries to never have her child face a challenge, to have the mother aid the child to ‘help the child’ along so that they never fail or never not-have-fun—that mother is actually making the child depend on her more and that cripples a child developmentally. I sometimes refer to this as “keeping a child stupid” or “keeping a child incompetent”. This can range from keeping a toddler or preschooler using a baby bottle instead of graduating on to a sippy cup or a normal cup, to not letting a child learn to climb the stairs to the slide out of fear of an injury (and many more things). Chapter Five “Whose Life is It?” in “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” by Alvin Rosenfeld M.D. and Nicole Wise covers this topics as well if you want to read what someone else has to say on this topic.

A frustrating thing with this Photoshop program is that the program has its own language. What normal English word I’d call doing a certain task, they have created an entire other language for. So part of the problem here is that I am asking certain questions and not finding answers. Only later do I stumble upon a new word and realize they are calling that thing a term I’d never heard of.

I am sure that many things that schooled children encounter are just like this. They are forced to confront new information and terms daily. The same goes for homeschooled children who are doing parent-directed learning (not unschooling).

Perhaps it is a good thing that I am being reminded of how hard it is to learn new things. Maybe this will give me more patience or empathy with my children during our homeschooling. I can only hope that something positive will come out of this frustrating experience that I’m having.

By the way if you are wondering what I am trying to do, I want to take two digital photo images that I took with my camera, and resize them side by side, to put it onto a 5x7 blank template so that I can have the photo shop print off one 5x7 sheet, and end up with basically two images next to each other which are 2.5 x 3.5 inches which I can then cut apart when I get home. I am not digitally altering the photo images themselves or anything fancy like that. This seems to me to be something that would be easy to do, but so far it is not. To get through this I am pulling on multiple character traits.

I am glad I have those character traits in place to help me through this: responsibility, persistence, patience, determination and maturity to name a few. Sadly, not everyone ever learns these character traits, even by adulthood, and I think that actually contributes to some problems in our society.

Okay now I will go back to trying to teach myself Photoshop. Wish me luck.

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Lh said...

Great topic.
I agree it can be very useful (and of course is important) to remember that these little incremental bits of learning we require from our children are often very difficult. Couple that with perhaps the definition or nuance of a word in our instruction or in the student's books can throw off his concentration momentariliy and/or s/he may just totally miss the point of a phrase in the book or our instruction.
I too find when we bear this in mind, the homeschooling comes along more smoothly. :-)

Great topic. And I hope you enjoy the PhotoShop. :-)

Christina said...

Have you figured it out yet? I have done a lot of PS work and recently started using elements myself. First, if you want 2.5x3.5, you'd get FOUR images out of a 5x7 template - for two images you'd get 3.5x5.

The the key is that you can't C&P same size images into your template if the resolution (pixels per inch) is different. PS will automatically resize the image during the transfer. If you have a 3.5x5 image at 300ppi and move it to a 150ppi template, it will double in size to 7x10.

The dialog box you want is at menu Image >> Resize >> Image size. You want to make sure "Scale Style" and "Constrain Proportions" are both checked. Then for each image, you can set the dimensions to 3.5x5, and the Resolution to 300 (print quality). Then set up your new document to 5x7 by 300. Finally, you can do a Select All from the images and C&P them into the new document, placing them side by side.

I hope that helps you - software help files are never very helpful, and specialty products, like photo or music, are really the worst... I'm gone for a lot of today so I won't be able to check back for like 8 hours... Good luck!!!

christinemm said...

Thanks so much for these directions!

I was able to figure it out on the second try with your set of directions.


Now it seems so easy and I'm at that point where I wonder, "Why was I so frustrated?"

What I'm doing is resizing my digital photos into 2.5"x3.5" size for some photo ATCs that I am swapping with other ATC swappers through the mail.

Now back to finish my project!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Good luck on finishing your project!

I am reminded constantly that there is a hard part and a boring part and a "sitzfleish" part to learning. I do not always want to sit down and memorize neuroanatomy nor try to understand some of the densely written papers. I groan and complain--to myself, for who else would listen--sometimes about the work load that I have chosen.

And yet that 30 - 60 minutes per day studying, the several days to finish a paper, all of these do add up to accomplishment in the end.

My 30 - 60 minutes is equivalent to the 5 - 10 minutes for a child. It is not torture, and anyway, the accomplishment is definitely worth it!

Christina said...

Yippee!! I'm so glad I took the time to send you the comment (I had a crazy day of rehearsals and auditions yesterday). Now I need the time to browse all the recipes you've posted :-)

Good luck with the project...