One of the greatest gifts I can give my kids is the assurance that adults don’t know it all – we’re not experts at everything, and we don’t necessarily know more than kids do, except for those instances that simply require extended life experience. Whether I like it or not, I offer this lesson repeatedly simply by being a home educator. I don’t remember the finer points of algebra, or what order certain history events take place – sometimes the three of us research these things together, sometimes I read ahead and report my findings to them, and sometimes I assign the research to the kids so that they can fill me in!
I talk a lot about instilling confidence and educational ownership into my kids, providing them opportunities to become experts in their own interests and then to share that expertise with others. Today they got to share with a wonderful group of sixth graders at Dorothy Moses Elementary School. One of the teachers contacted me before the holidays and requested Eva to come to her class as a kid-author and Ian to come into another class as a kid-game inventor. This is how it went down:
There are three sixth grade classes at Dorothy Moses, ranging from about 15-20 students each (I’m guessing here; I didn’t count). Before the holidays, the three classes watched all of Eva’s writing clips and then wrote letters to Eva telling her what they thought of the videos and asked a few questions. Eva read through all of the letters (that was a super-fun day!) and compiled a list of the kids’ questions.
For the Big Day, the teachers rearranged the school schedule to ensure that the entire morning was free from interruptions. They placed Ian in one classroom and Eva in another, right across the hall. The three classes were scheduled to rotate through Eva’s and Ian’s rooms with a teacher-led class as the third rotation; each class period was 50 minutes long. After chatting with the teachers for a few minutes and getting generally set up, the students filed in. Eva’s public speaking ability and confidence has sky-rocketed this year, but she’s still learning the craft, and I felt it was important to be with her to provide moral support, occasional clarity, and conversational questions to the students to keep them involved in the discussion.
That meant Ian, being the more experienced public speaker, had to do this on his own. He’s done a number of presentations over the past couple of years and long ago quit needing my active support. But still – giving a 10 minute presentation and running a class of age-peers are quite different experiences. It felt odd just dropping him off and not being there even to observe!
But the morning was fabulous. Eva began her presentation by going through the questions; having a structured format seemed to help her get warmed up. After about 20 minutes, the discussion opened up to further Q&A. I was so pleased by the active engagement of the students. Hands shot up, and they asked tons of great questions – many about the finer aspects of story telling and publishing, some about the book tour, others about what it’s like to be homeschooled and grade-skipped, and one kid who has obviously fallen into his own passion with the trumpet asked her lots of questions about choosing that instrument (she has recently begun trumpet lessons). We talked about stories they had started and/or finished, and how they went about writing and sharing them. We shared favorite books (The Hunger Games was almost unanimously #1) and discussed good and not-so-good movie adaptations.
In the other room, Ian followed his rehearsed class-flow. He began by talking about his invention process – how he got his idea, when he started, and how he developed, tested, and revised. He stood in front of a projection of his website so he could also discuss marketing. After telling his story he gave the class a demonstration of the game, explaining the science and math behind his animal trading cards. We only have two prototypes left, so after his demonstration he called for four player volunteers (enough for two games) and split the class into two groups so they could observe and participate in the game play. According to Ian, the kids in his class also had lots of questions – some were about the game play and production, some were about homeschool and grade-skipping, and some were about his being a musician. There certainly seemed to be consistent themes across the classrooms.
Our hope with these presentations is to spread a sense of empowerment and courage to other kids in their passions, no matter what those passions are. Eva’s favorite question was “Do you want to grow up to be an author?” After pausing a moment she said, “Well, yes and no. I don’t want to grow up to be an author. I’m an author now. And you can be one too.” I love that.
She’ll get another opportunity to spread this message very soon, because I am happy to announce that on February 17, Eva will Skype into two North Dakota classrooms as a part of the seventh annual Read Across North Dakota event. Through video conferencing, she’ll be able to offer the same type of presentation that she gave today. It will be Fabulous.
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