Making mistakes

Hey, friends. I’m still here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about white privilege and how it works inexorably in my favor, and against my neighbor. It’s hard to talk and think about, and I’ve been silent on this platform, because I’m uncomfortable with the conversation… so I’m listening and learning. This is work I have to do. Being uncomfortable is good for me, and I hope in the long run it will make the world a better place.

Also, I’ve been thinking about our home school- you know, looking back at this year and our successes and failures and all the meh moments in between. I’ve been thinking specifically about failure, and how important it is for learning. Julie Bogart of Bravewriter talks about how homeschooled kids never get a math problem wrong because their parents won’t let them. It’s funny here, but that was exactly how we worked in our house until I read that statement. Now after I mark their math work, I look for the patterns and decide which problems (if any) I want them to correct. Recently, it’s never more than one or two.

Likewise, I used to correct every little thing they did “wrong,” even when most of them were purely style. I did this in their reading aloud, in their writing, in the way they set the table, in the way they made their beds… all in the spirit of “learning to do it right.” How exhausting for them.

You know what? With most things, there are lots of ways to do it right. And who’s to say that my way of making the bed is better than theirs? Really, it’s just my preference.  My kids learn so much better from making real mistakes, whether it’s getting lost on their bikes, or not having enough money for something they want to buy because they spent some last week on candy.

But then I got to thinking about how my black friends don’t have the luxury of letting their children make mistakes.

If one of my kids talks back to a teacher in a classroom, I’m going to get a phone call. If my black friend’s kid talks back to a teacher, they’re much more likely to get embroiled in the criminal justice system, because we put police in schools.

If one of my kids is driving our car with a broken tail light, they’re going to get a warning or a ticket. If my neighbor’s black teenager gets stopped for driving with a broken tail light, who’s to say he will make it home alive?

This plays out in a million ways, most of which I’ve had the privilege never to consider.

Making mistakes is part of childhood.  It’s a necessary part of learning, and it’s an opportunity we’ve stolen from our brothers and sisters of color, and their children.  I don’t know how to change it, but I want to be part of the culture of change that will give everyone’s children the opportunities I’ve had.

2 thoughts on “Making mistakes

  1. “…the luxury of letting their children make mistakes.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot, realizing how much I unknowingly benefit from white privilege just because I assume people will give my kids the benefit of the doubt when it comes to facts or skills they don’t have down pat. There are so many things to see afresh!

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  2. Wow. This is amazing. Thank you for sharing this perspective. Making mistakes – I never considered that a privilege but you’re exactly right. You’re a gift, Annie.

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