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Learning by Doing

by in Family and Faith

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When I read to Bronson, his hands are always touching the book. He points at every possible ball or bird. When he was younger, he would even try to peel objects off the page. Looking is not enough.

When he watches Happy Feet, he gets up to dance, tapping his feet and wiggling his hips and stomping to emphasize the beat. Watching is not enough.

When I try to explain how to walk down the stairs while holding the railing, he doesn’t wait for my instructions to finish. He steps, leaps even. Listening is not enough.

Bronson is hands-on. When he wants to do something, he wants to do.


Some would say this is because he’s a boy. Some would say this is because he’s young. I would say this is because he’s discerning.

Of course, if I didn’t grab his arm, he would tumble down the stairs. Sometimes a pause before action is best.

But his desire for action, his movement into whatever is happening, is about him learning by doing. It’s about him stepping into life’s scenes, unafraid of what he doesn’t know. It’s about him being perceptive and refusing to experience anything passively or to miss experiencing it at all.

Even though he fearlessly leaps into things, he’s always thinking while he does it. He’s keenly aware of his surroundings. He notices birds while we’re out on a walk. He makes the connection between the muffin in the moose book and his sweet tooth. He’s learning rhythm as he taps his feet. He’s realizing he needs more than a railing – he needs a hand. I don’t always realize he’s thinking, learning even, while he’s doing. But the next time we do the same thing, it’s clear he remembers exactly what happened last time.

The wisdom of this lifestyle lies in just the right amount of thinking. He doesn’t over-think things, ensuring that he misses the adventure or the opportunity. He doesn’t waste time talking himself out of things (except dinner, nearly daily). He acts. But he thinks, too. The whole time he’s doing, he’s learning because he’s not just in action, he’s ascertaining. He’s gathering intel to process.

This makes his life more of an action-packed adventure than the average adult. Why not learn to snowboard at 20 months? Why not attempt the stairs to see if he’s capable? Why not try out a button and see what it does? Curiosity keeps him in motion, but amazingly it’s the cogs in his brain that magnifies the movement. He’s dazzled by what he discovers, and he uses that enthusiasm to propel him forward.

If I merged my actions and my thinking, life could be more of an adventure. I would waste less time considering what to do. I would discover profound metaphors in the daily grind. I would push the limits of what I can do. I would learn new things every day. I would hesitate less, act more and probably fall more, too. But what if I, like my son, didn’t care? What if failure and disappointment were just discoveries to be processed like everything else?

What if I chose to do? What marvelous things could I learn?

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