GUEST BLOG POST: Learning All the Time.....by Kira Wizner
Every day our children learn about living. For them, almost everything is new. Not only are they learning about being a person, they are learning all the skills that we already have under our belt. I know how to use a metro card, do the laundry, load the dishwasher, pack my purse, and more. Kids don’t. Learning to get to school is as important as what they learn at school.
So how do we support them in this tremendous journey? Reconnecting with what learning feels like, and how it thrives, is one place to start.
Recently, I started riding a bike. I hadn’t ridden in over 20 years, and I had never ridden in the city. I had lots of opinions though about how dangerous it was, had read an article citing a statistic linking helmets to higher fatalities, and I knew my mother (whose opinion still makes me pause) would think it was crazy.
But then, it seemed like riding a bike would be a great thing to add to my life as a mom. So, I bought a bike. I biked halfway to school to see what it was like. A few days later, I biked all the way to school. As I rode I thought about all those moments kids do something new—the first day of dance class, a new gymnastics teacher, and starting each school year. My girls have been excited about things when we’ve signed up, and gotten nervous when we’ve arrived. How do we best support our kids without pushing?
I was hyper aware of this when we started riding together. I used my feelings as a starting point— it was exciting, nerve wracking, totally out of my comfort zone. I pushed myself physically—not such a hard ride but harder than not riding at all. I knew my girls must be feeling something similar. I took on the role of cheerleader those first few weeks—“You can do it!” and “Do you see how strong you are!?” and “This isn’t easy! Do you remember what it was like the first time? Look how far we’ve come!”
I named for them what we did—re-told the story. How they had enjoyed their bikes all summer, how I had Google-mapped the route to school and realized we could bike. How we started slowly, leaving lots of time, and how we got better at all of it, incrementally. Every day we made it from point a to point b—a sure concrete completion of a project. I know the best way to succeed is to feel good—to tap into your strengths, to have a goal.
After a few weeks, we started experimenting with different routes, took turns riding first or last in certain places. We started really enjoying the sun on the water in the morning, learned to take a scarf when it was windy, and stopped on the way home to eat our snack.
Undeniably, authentic encouragement plays a huge role in learning. The claps and nods we get from people we see on our route are encouraging. When we pulled up to school the first few weeks, comments ranged from, “Wow!” to disbelief. School—such a complex place for children. A place they spend 6 hours or so a day, being challenged yet needing to feel safe. Without their parents but still needing adult protection. The girls heard me questioned by so many adults, and heard my answers. They heard me tell the story of how we started, what it’s like: “Yes, they both ride their own bikes.” ; “No, it doesn’t take us too long,” “Yes, she learned to ride last year,” and more. I’m sure they hear the pride in my voice.
Like everything that’s worth learning, it hasn’t been easy. As I write this, we are actually home from a half-day of school because we couldn’t quite manage to get out on our bikes this morning. And the day one daughter crossed behind me and I didn’t see her and then almost fell on top of her? My limbic system, specifically my amygdala, whose job, described by Dr. Dan Siegel “is to quickly process and express emotions, especially anger and fear” took over and expressed both anger and fear—as another mom we know watched me freak out as she glided by with her very young daughter in a bikeseat.
But, learning is how you come back from those moments. An apology, to my daughter, first. A good rest of the ride, second. Debriefing later, re-telling the story and figuring out what happened, third. We can always remember what helps our children—having a goal, the ability to practice, real encouragement and appreciation. We are always learning.
Kira will be speaking at the next Motherhood Later Moms’ Night Out Dinner in New York on November 16th, 7 - 9:30pm. Write email@example.com for information. Her talk will address:
What does it mean to be smart? How do we truly support our children as learners?
Every day we have opportunities to strengthen our children’s ability to live in our world.
• How some people define “smart” and how you can define it to inspire your kids
• How to talk to your children about school, music, sports, art, relationships, etc. to promote and support their own life-long learning
• What parents model about learning—in everyday life, and where you can model behaviors and strategies that encourage your children
• Choosing schools and scaffolding school experiences—especially how you talk about school when it comes home.
• How understanding some brain basics as parents can help you and your kids in everyday living and learning
Kira Wizner is a mom of two and parent coach in New York City. A former teacher at East Side Middle School and staff developer in the NYC public school system, she began an intense study in parenting and child development when she had her own children. Her askyourfriendkira.com site holds a wealth of information on subjects from conception through parenting. She is the founding writer of the monthly parenting column, Family Focus, for the magazine The New York Resident.
Kira leads workshops with parents and preschool teachers, has been part of a parenting group that has met monthly since 2004, and is a certified Girl’s Circle leader. Always learning, she is continuing her parent coaching practice on-the-job and at the Neufeld Institute.
For more, you can visit her website http://askyourfriendkira.com/.