SkylarkSings ~ www.skylarksings.com

Walking

If I may say so myself, I'm a pretty adept walker. Nothing special, or worth writing home about, but my feet usually get me where I want to go. I slouch a bit, probably more than I used to (Mrs. Hochstein, my third grade teacher, wouldn't approve), and haven't taken any big hikes lately, and I haven't worn a backpack in a long time. Maybe a little slower than I once was (my nickname in college was "Fast Eddie", though honestly it didn't have anything to do with foot speed.) But the legs work, and the feet carry me in a reasonably straight line. I might be a little flat-flooted, but there's nothing remotely Chaplinesque, and, by my walk, I would certainly never be mistaken for Popeye, even if I had the muscles (and I don't). I am an able-bodied pedestrian, a pretty solid "B" walker.

Now I must admit I wasn't always this way. In fact, I can hardly begin to tell you how many times I failed walking. Just couldn't get it. Flunked repeatedly. Some of the time, I couldn't even get up on my feet, and some of the time I was too scared to even try, and some of the time, well, I probably decided, in my own way, that there was no particular place I wanted to go, so why make the effort? Failure. Fell down a couple of dozen times during test weeks. It took me months, when for some, it only took days. Scores of "Fs". No one had to send a note home to my parents - they witnessed the whole thing. My mother bought me pair of shoes with "cookies" in them (and this was long before shoe retailers had websites.)

I did eventually learn from my mistakes, of course, and although I never became the two-legged terror of the neighborhood, and would always remain more noun than verb, there has, at least until now, never been a time when my walking has failed me. Perhaps my sights have been lowered, and my Himalayan touring is certainly over, but I have few regrets.

The reality is, as the late British educator Robin Hodgkin - himself a renowned trekker and climber - once wrote, "Every skilled act, many of which now seem easy and automatic, started as an achievement in the face of difficulty and danger." The analogy with walking may seem to some overly simplistic, but I think it is the very simplicity of how we go about learning to walk that reveals the engines behind virtually all learning quests. If I was decent at marketing, I'd call it the "Not-(Yet)-So-Fat Albert's Five-Step Homeschooling Recipe for Learning Success (and Hair Loss Elixir)" (but I'm not).

  1. The truth of my inner development encounters physical, cultural, and social opportunities for action;
  2. My inner drive though limited competence meets up with the space and freedom where this truth can realize its expression;
  3. Models for action presented to me provide for the development of goal orientations;
  4. A bit of encouragement and a modicum of coaching can help me feel assured that I am on the right path and assist me in discovering tools and techniques which are not as yet, to me, intuitive; and
  5. Success in pushing back one of the frontiers provides some of the inner knowledge that commitment and courage will allow me to advance in pushing back others.

This column (in Home Education Magazaine) is purposely shorter than my usual ones. That's because I'd prefer you read it twice, and then do a little thinking about how it might apply to your own experience. And it's springtime, so when you finish, put down the magazine (the advertisers will hate me), grab the kids, get out of the house, and go for a good long walk. Take the dog, and be sure to smell the flowers.

Ah, it's great to be homeschooling!