Socrates, a famous philosopher
Penelope, a home school mom
Penelope: Socrates, I am pleased to meet you. I hear you know stuff. Can you tell me how someone becomes a Lead Learner?
Socrates: Nice to meet you, Penelope. I don’t know much at all, so I am sorry to say that I don’t know the answer to your question, but if you are willing, I do have a question for you.
Penelope: Sure, I’m game. What’s your question?
Socrates: How does one become a “lead” anything else? Or, before we get to that, what is a leader?
Penelope: Well, it seems like a leader is someone who is responsible for a vision or a plan.
Socrates: Can there be a leader when there is no one to be led?
Penelope: To be a leader, it seems like you have to be in a group.
Socrates: Of course. A captain leads a team. A pastor leads a church. A president leads a country.
Penelope: That makes sense. An athletic team is a group of people. A church is a group of people. A country is a group of people.
Socrates: So how does one become a leader of a group? Does the team simply close their eyes, spin around three times, point, and hope for the best?
Penelope: Sometimes it does seem like that, but surely that would not be the right way to do it. A group of people desiring a leader would look for someone who is faithful, experienced, diligent, and willing to be their leader. The best choice would a leader who loves the group and the task the group is called to do.
Socrates: I certainly hope so. Does the captain of a hockey team loves his fellow players and the game of hockey?
Socrates: Does the pastor of the church love the parishioners and the gospel of Christ?
Penelope: I sure hope so.
Socrates. Of course. And does the president of a country love the citizens of the country, as well as freedom, peace, and justice?
Penelope: If not, we’re in trouble.
Socrates: Indeed. So what about the Lead Learner? Who is the group of people that a Lead Learner will be leading? And what would she love?
Penelope: Well, I guess it would be a group of learners, and she would love learning.
Socrates: Indeed. Does it matter what they’re learning? Must it be some particular topic or is any group of learners in need of a leader?
Penelope: I suppose it would be for any topic. And some learners probably don’t need leading. I’d say many learners are self-motivated to learn.
Socrates: What about you? Are you leading any learners?
Penelope: I am, indeed. I have several little, and not-so-little, learners in my home.
Socrates: Are they generally self-motivated?
Penelope: Generally? No, not really.
Socrates: So, do you think they need a leader?
Penelope: Yes, most of the time, they do.
Socrates: So, how will you choose who to lead them?
Penelope: Well, I suppose I’ve already chosen. We’re homeschoolers, so I am the one to lead them.
Socrates: Excellent! I’ve heard great things about homeschooling. So, tell me, Penelope, do you love your group of learners? Do you love what you are trying to accomplish as a group, or in other words, do you love learning?
Penelope: I know I love my group; they’re my children. Do I love what we’re doing? I’d say, ‘yes,’ I do love learning, but more on some days and less on others.
Socrates: Tell me, do you think that the Captain of a hockey team loves hockey the same amount every day of the week? Is his love for hockey always at the same level?
Penelope: Probably not. I’d say he has some off days.
Socrates: Indeed, I do believe you are right. But does he stop playing hockey just because he has an “off day?”
Penelope: No, he keeps practicing and playing as long as he is captain.
Socrates: Practicing hockey?
Penelope: Of course. That is why the team has come together.
Socrates: So, what about you, Penelope, do you practice learning even on the “off days?”
Penelope: I guess so. I think we’re always learning, but some days I think I just try to keep the routine as much as I can. I just try to keep everyone on track. But to do that, I have to be pretty creative.
Socrates: How so?
Penelope: Well, sometimes the biggest struggle of the day is attitudes, not academics. On those days, I am mostly trying to help the children regain focus. It may not be that they can’t do the work, but that their frustration distracts them, and they can’t attend to the work. On those days, my attention is on the children themselves, not even on the lessons they are learning. Then, on other days, the children can be focused and working really, really hard, but the content they are studying is what trips them up. Sometimes they just don’t understand the instructions, or they don’t understand the concepts. And sometimes both of these things happen several times throughout the same day.
Socrates: And what do you do when the obstacle is attitudes?
Penelope: Well, it depends on which child is having the struggles. Each child is different in some ways.
Socrates: I couldn’t agree more. So, you’ve learned a lot about each child?
Penelope: I hope so. I’ve been with each one a long time.
Socrates: Indeed, you have. Like that church pastor that we mentioned before, it sounds like you are still practicing getting to know those whom you love.
Penelope. I guess that’s right. I know them pretty well, but humans are messy, so some days are just messy.
Socrates: I couldn’t agree with you more. Lots messier than hockey, and about as messy as pastoring. It does sound like you love the group of people you are leading. What about the times when academics are the problem? What do you do then?
Penelope: Well, it kind of depends on the subject and the lesson, but generally, when I don’t understand the lesson, I have to sit down and read it. Sometimes I can ask the kids questions that help them find the answer on their own, but sometimes I just need to know the details of what they are learning. Then, once I see it, I can ask better questions.
Socrates: Penelope, I like your style. You sound a lot like Prodicus, my old teacher. He was a good teacher, too. Penelope, you originally asked me, “How does one become a lead learner?” It sounds to me like the story of your life would answer that question. Now that we’ve had this chat, do you agree?
Penelope: Well, I’ve never thought of myself as the “lead learner.” I just get up every morning and do what has to be done. Sometimes I know what I ought to do, and sometimes, it seems like I am making it up as I go along. Every situation is similar, but every situation is a little bit different. Every child is human with similar needs, and every child is a person, unique in so many ways.
Socrates: If we still agree with our previous definition of a leader as one who is faithful, experienced, diligent, and willing to be the group’s leader, then it sounds like you could look in the mirror for an answer to your original question.
Penelope: I am flattered, but that isn’t very comforting. How am I supposed to learn from myself?
Socrates: Are you entirely alone as a lead learner? Do you know any other home school moms?
Penelope: In fact, I do. I know several. I see them at least once a week.
Socrates: Then I recommend that next time you see them, go ask them some of the questions I’ve asked you. I certainly don’t know what it means to be a home school mom. In fact, all I really know is that I don’t know too much. That’s why I am so glad we’ve had this little chat. Thank you, Penelope. I’ve learned a lot.
Penelope: You’re welcome, and thank you, Socrates. I’ve learned a lot, too.