My daughter does well in school. Her grades are excellent and she is exceptionally kind and thoughtful. So when she comes home and chooses to spend much of her time on the internet I don’t worry. Much.
But if I am being honest I have to admit that I feel like I am being a bad parent by giving her so much freedom to explore the internet. On the other hand, when I check on her I usually find her watching some sort of cooking or craft demonstration.
There are still times where I feel guilty. So trying to be a good parent I sometimes tell my daughter to read or write for 20 minutes. I think more than anything it is to make me feel better. It probably does nothing to further her learning or sharpen her skills.
And yet I continue to go through the motions. If for no other reason than to make myself feel better.
But last Sunday something pretty awesome happened.
I had decided that my daughter had enough “free time” on her computer and it was time for me to decide what she would do next. It just so happened that I discovered that a member of my PLN, Mark French, oftentimes blogs about food.
Perfect! My daughter loves to cook.
I told my daughter that I wanted her to read one of Mark’s posts and leave a comment. I felt better about this assignment. This time I was giving her some choice in what she was doing, but it was within parameters that I set.
I directed her to Marks’ blog ( https://principalwhocooks.wordpress.com/ ) and let her go at it. Once she read one of his posts, I showed her how and where she could leave her comment. I really had no expectations. More than anything, I just wanted her to read something that interested her and write a few sentences.
I always appreciate when someone leaves a comment on my posts and I try to comment on others’ posts as often as possible. Most of the time I comment on how much I enjoyed their post and I try to let them know what I found meaningful about what they wrote.
When I went to read my daughter’s comment I was expecting something similar. And my daughter’s comment did start off mentioning how much she enjoyed Mark’s post about making sushi. But then she did something that I thought was totally awesome.
She wrote about how his post on sushi reminded her of a video she had seen in which someone used candy and Rice Krispie treats to make an entirely different type of sushi. Wow! What a cool connection!
Maybe she really is getting something out of her unstructured time on the internet. I am not naive enough to think that everyone she looks at is furthering her education. But then again neither is everything I look at. The fact that she was able to read a blog piece and within minutes make a meaningful connection was great. That is exactly what we want for our students. The ability to assimilate what they are learning with what they already know.
So now I am starting to think that the times I had her read for 20 minutes or write for 20 minutes could have been better spent allowing her to explore on the internet. I am certain it would have been more meaningful to her. I think that is more important than we realize. Than I realized. Because her comment on Mark’s post didn’t make any connection to the reading assignments I had given her. And it didn’t have any connection to the writing assignments. No, her connection was to a cooking video that she had found. On her own. To be honest, the connection she made in her comment was better and more meaningful than any I have ever left.
Last Sunday I was able to witness firsthand what happens when we allow children the freedom to explore their passions. What we often find is that they come away with something more meaningful and personal than we ourselves could have ever chosen for them.
Mark and my daughter have agreed to collaborate this summer and each make a video of them making the candy sushi. I am quite certain that the 20 minute reading and writing assignments that I gave my daughter will be distant memories by then. In fact, they probably are already.
Here is the link to Mark French’s post titled Making Sushi and the comment left by my daughter.