Most of us were not raised to think kids can learn on their own. But even if you were raised to think kids can teach themselves, you will be shocked to hear about the kids in Ethiopia. MIT chose a remote, illiterate community to send some first-graders a box of iPads. Unopened. One person in the community was taught how to recharge the iPads. That’s all anyone knew about the iPads. Within a month, the kids could read English and within three months, the kids had hacked the iPad to make the camera work even though someone at MIT had disabled the cameras.
It’s a great story, isn’t it? Because it really bolsters the idea that kids do not need a teacher standing over them telling them what to do. Also, it bolsters the idea that no limits on screen time is positively inspirational.
And the story about Ethiopia bolsters the idea that it’s insane that I make the tech support calls for my kids. So we got a new computer yesterday. And today we don’t know how to work it, of course. We have all Macs at home, and we bought a PC so the kids could play Terraria, and other games that only run on PCs. I told the kids I would not set up the computer. I gave them my credit card and told them to figure out how to get the games onto the computer. When they lost connection with the mouse, I told them to call tech support.
It was hard not to help them. I could do things faster. But I told myself what is the point of me learning to run a PC? I’ll just do more and more for them if I learn how to use it.
I could hear the guy on the tech support call getting frustrated that my son couldn’t hear him. And I recalled the years that I ran a tech support department where there was one person in charge of taking calls from kids because they were such a pain.
I had to keep reminding myself that the kids in Ethiopia could manage their own computers, so I have to stop helping my kids.
By the end of the day, my kids knew how to use the PC. They bought all the games they were hoping to buy and loaded them onto the computer. They called tech support twice. But it felt like magic, all day, as they became more and more comfortable with managing their own computer life.
They remind me of homeschooling. I thought homeschooling would be me yelling at the kids to stop fighting and yelling at the kids to get out of the room so I can work. And then, later in the day, homeschooling would be me downing a bottle of wine. It has been a lot of that.
But also, it’s been a lot of moments that feel like magic: where I find myself trusting my kids even though it seemed like it would never happen.