Why have I started this blog with an image of some dodgy examples of crochet? Well, those dodgy examples of crochet illustrate the process of learning.
I’m learning to crochet you see. I tried to learn in lockdown #1 and failed miserably. I could not figure it out at all. It took me days just to work out how to hold to hook and yarn. Then a few more days to learn how to make a “chain” that starts the work off. I found it incredibly frustrating because I’d picked up basic knitting pretty easily a few years before.
After my attempts in the spring and summer of 2020, I hadn’t picked up a crochet hook again until Boxing Day 2021. I asked for a book for Christmas which I thought would help me learn. Unfortunately, the pictures weren’t as clear, and the instructions were not as basic, as I’d hoped. I got frustrated and was stuck again. A week later I got some books out of the library and went back to the YouTube videos I tried the year before. I sat down and tried again, with all the books around me and YouTube at the ready. Between them, with time, patience, and more mistakes than successes, I’ve achieved what I thought I was never going to be able to – a “simple” square.
The green one is the first square I’ve made which resembles a square. All the others had become a kind of wonky circle, or grew corners in the wrong places, and were undone (or “frogged” as I’ve learned the crochet terminology is!) This green one is not perfect, but it was a milestone achievement for me!
The yellow one is the second successful attempt, with fewer mistakes and is slightly larger. There were many unsuccessful attempts between the green and yellow squares.
Learning is a Process
Learning is a process. It is not a linear line of constant progression but is messy, frustrating and mistake-filled, but also hopefully an ultimately enjoyable and fulfilling process. We learn something, and this leads us on to further learning, and we feel good and successful, but then we might hit a plateau, not achieving new learning for a while. This is perfectly normal. Our brains need time to embed learning and sometimes this can take a while.
Embrace the Mistakes
It doesn’t matter what you’re learning – spellings, times tables, crochet, riding a bike… We start at the beginning and build on our knowledge and skills in gradual little steps, using different techniques. One YouTube video didn’t work for me. One book didn’t work for me, but a mixture of videos and books, taking the useful bits from each, did. We will get stuck, fall off the bike (metaphorically or literally!) many times, get back on, try again, and, most importantly, make mistakes. Mistakes are essential to learning. All those times I had to undo my crochet (and maybe felt frustrated about having to destroy my hard work) I learned a little more about how to prevent the same thing from happening again – little lightbulb moments which feel like Lego bricks fitting into place and building a clear understanding in my head. Often it took a few tries before I got there, but each time I tried, successful or not, the neural pathways in my brain were getting stronger, and the learning became more embedded, and the more I practised, the easier it became until I achieved my little green square. I looked at the square with pride despite its flaws, and I could see what I needed to do next time to improve it, which I achieved in the yellow square.
Practising a skill little and often helps build those neural pathways and keeps them strong. Our brain is a muscle and needs exercising just like every other muscle in our body. We exercise it by practising our skills. 10 minutes (or more) of spelling, times tables, crochet or bike riding (or whatever) a day will keep those pathways strong and help the learning process along. But when it gets difficult that’s OK too. It’s normal. It’s part of the process. We can’t always be moving forwards and constantly progressing. Sometimes we need to stand still and rest.
The Problem with “The System”
This goes against what our education system tells children (which, let me remind you, is created by, and handed down to schools by politicians with no education background or knowledge, not qualified teachers and educators who understand how people learn). This is one of the reasons why so many children find school difficult and find learning frustrating and hard, and are crippled by fear of mistakes. There is an expectation from up high (The System) that they have to constantly keep moving forward and improving, but without the understanding behind that of what a messy process learning actually is. There is little room in the curriculum for learning from mistakes (although many schools do a fantastic job of reminding children that mistakes are good as long as we learn from them, and embedding this in their practise as much as possible) because children are expected to achieve so much, at such speed.
How Tuition can Help the Learning Process
My bespoke 1-2-1 and small group tuition gives children the time and space to work at their pace, on the areas they need to practise. To learn to embrace mistakes as good things that help build their neural pathways and keep their brain strong. To practise things and ultimately to see that learning can be fun. Because, despite all the mistakes, it’s been fun getting to the stage of my little yellow square, and I’m excited about what I’ll achieve next in my crochet journey, even though I know there will be plenty more “frogging” along the way. And I love it just as much when children get their own “yellow square moment” and seeing how this boosts their confidence and enjoyment of learning, making that messy learning process a little easier and a little more fun for them.