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First Grade Language Arts Lesson: Why don't you use a ruler for the lines?

Updated: May 1, 2023

If you would like to review the language arts lesson first you can watch here:

Ok so Why don't you use a ruler for the lines?

As you can see, my "guiding lines", the strips of color I created with the block crayon, are not perfectly horizontal. So, the natural question is why don't we use a ruler to straighten that out? I am glad you asked.

The reason is that we take every opportunity to challenge the children appropriately. Even in first grade, which this lesson is an example of, the student can usually manage to create these guidelines well enough. And of course, we might even need to help them at first.

However, we do not bring in the ruler or a straight edge because we want the child to work with straightness, with horizontality, with balance on the page. This challenge strengthens them and builds their perceptions and abilities in these areas. The ruler might create a straighter line, of course, but it does not challenge them in these multiple ways.

We must remember that learning, including the work they do on their main lesson pages, is a journey. When we see a particularly fine example of main lesson work--and there are many such examples posted all over the internet--it is all too easy to become distracted toward seeing the child's work, particularly in the main lesson book, as a beautiful product. It is much better for the child and even for the parent or teacher to remember that the process, the journey is what really matters. Within that journey, there is certainly a striving for beauty and accuracy, but that is not the most important focus. The most important focus needs to be a focus on challenging the child at the most beneficial levels. In short, this is the "struggle" or the "stretch".

The stretch requires us to struggle beyond our comfort zone. At the same time, it is not so far beyond us that it becomes detrimentally stressful.

Comfort - No learning. Things are too easy. Work my be neat and beautiful, but there is not enough challenge and therefore not enough stretch or struggle.

Stretch - (or Struggle) - The work is difficult, but success is achievable if the child applies their efforts. Note that this effort is toward the best possible work, yet devoid of perfectionism. This is an ongoing balancing act. The work the child produces may not be incredibly beautiful, but we know that the journey they took was challenging and yet fulfilling at the same time.

Stress - The work is too difficult. They go into fight-or-flight mode. They start to shut down. The child's work is very rough and usually incomplete.

There is no exact formula for determining when we are challenging a child just enough. And, as they grow and learn, it is always changing. It takes courage and reflection on the part of the educator. Over time, we learn the child, we learn to read them in many ways.

Here is another example of why struggling is so important. Please, anyone who reads this, do not feel guilty if you put your child in one of the walker apparatuses.

When a child is trying to stand and then attempting to walk, we should let them do this on their own as much as possible. We can think that the little devices and contraptions like the little walkers with the seat and the wheels will help them get a sense of balance and uprightness. Perhaps this is even true to an extent. However, what is lost is the development of the will forces to some extent.

When, by contrast, a child struggles through every phase of learning how to stand, of trying over and over, they develop a deeply engrained sense of their own will forces. This sense is an unconscious one, just as the movement of those growing and developing muscles is unconscious. As they struggle and fall, struggle again and fall and then, eventually, find success, their souls become imprinted with a profound insight into the nature of living in this world. On a much deeper level than that of thought and words, the child has the experience of the value of struggle toward a goal.

When a child has this in their being, they will apply it to thousands of different situations along the course of learning in school and, as long as we do not lame that will force, throughout their lives. This will force or persistence, is the most under-appreciated and therefore under-developed capacity in our youth today.

As Calvin Coolidge once said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

I hope this helps.


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