I’m not an expert — only a sometime watcher.
The Boy (2 1/2-year-old grandson) watches more baseball than I do.
He’s got the moves, though at his young age his moves aren’t connected or coordinated. He can stand like the catcher, squatted down, hands in front, ready to catch the ball. He has no mitt because they don’t make them his size. He can stand sideways like a pitcher and hurl the ball to his dad. Sometimes he even throws it straight. He works hard at hitting his real baseball with his light saber, which he uses more like a golf club than a baseball bat. He can run the imaginary bases in the front yard or in the house when an adult declares he’s hit a home run. He can even slide into home base.
Here’s what I’ve learned from The Boy in the last four days:
- Throwing and catching the ball require much practice — which he never tires of. Consistent catching is a long ways off.
- Baseball language comes before baseball understanding.
- Baseball moves are learned one at a time. Coordination will come later.
- A real baseball is necessary. Squishy play balls are a mere substitute.
All this baseball practice with The Boy caused much pondering about how we learn new skills. The process is the same whether we are learning to play a musical instrument, write a novel, read a chapter book, master French cooking, create a garden, become a photographer, or learn to swim. Here’s how we do it:
- We watch the experts — the people who excel at what we want to do. We watch because we have a passion for what they do.
- We learn the language — we call things by their proper and official name. Our language increases as we become more proficient.
- We learn small steps — we can’t become a concert pianist before we’ve learned how to keep our fingers on the right keys. Small steps learned well become larger accomplishments when put together.
- We learn best with real equipment or instruments or needles or cookware. Learning with “play stuff” may mean we have to relearn some things later as we advance. Real equipment means we’re serious about our learning.
- Much practice and patience is necessary to learn the complexities of a new skill. If a two-year-old can practicing throwing and catching endlessly, should I, as an adult, be impatient with less?
The Boy has taught me to think as a beginner, as a new learner. He’s taught me to relook at my process, to break it down into simpler parts, and to master them before I move on. He’s taught me enthusiasm for the learning. And he’s taught me to practice, practice, practice, until I get it.
Like him, I want to run to a friend and shout, “I got it!! I got it!!” And then take a run at top speed around the living room in celebration.
Until next Tuesday . . .