They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks and I'm starting to believe this may indeed be true. It has been a while, too many years to count, that I've had to learn anything new.
I am learning to crochet which is not a skill that will dramatically change my life but I have vowed to persevere. To say it's not going well is an understatement. I am the worst in the class, huffing and puffing over my tiny bit of uneven work while everyone, the arthritic old lady included, expertly flick their wrists and churn out what look like cushion covers.
It is while I sit there, trying not to look at everyone's work, my brow a knitted furrow, that I reach a new understanding and respect for children who regularly learn something new most weeks.Here's what learning to crochet has taught me.
- Joining a class of strangers is actually quite daunting, so if little Johnny says he doesn't want to go after the first week it may be because they're not terribly friendly. Being told "it'll be fine" is not helpful, but finding out who or what he doesn't like is.
- Going with a friend to a new activity may seem like a good idea, but it could hinder your child in making new friends or make them feel worse if Best Mate is a natural and your child isn't.
- Having the right kit is everything. It's no good fudging around this, making your child wear his brother's hand-me down football boots is not going to cut it. Kit them out properly but without buying the most expensive equipment.
- Getting there on time or even early is immensely helpful, especially on the first day when you get to find out vital but often-never-repeated things like where the toilets are and where to sit.
- Concentrating for any length of time, particularly at the end of the day, is tiring especially if a reviving after-school snack is not provided. Expect moodiness and even tears.
- Being the worst in the class at running, cookery or drawing or whatever will be noticed and it will matter. At least a little bit.
- Despite begging and waiting to go to guitar lessons for the past year it may -- just may -- be the most hateful thing ever when Susie gets there. You have no way of knowing, so don't invest too heavily in expectations or kit until she's sure about it.
- Even if she's keen to play the guitar, Susie may not be a natural. This is frustrating and disappointing too so your help will be vital in practising at home or finding out what exactly she doesn't understand. It may mean having a word with the teacher.
- We all learn differently. If your child is keen but struggling consider supplementing the classes with a book or watching how-to clips on YouTube. It can make all the difference.
- Learning alongside them (if it's something like the piano, we're not talking tag rugby here) may open a whole new world for you both. Or it could lead to disaster and you not talking to each other.
How do you help your children learn something new?