Am I Cheating my Boys?


By assuming what is hard for me to understand will be impossible for them to grasp?

By knowing that I have a limited teaching vocabulary – that they will not learn without concise descript  explanations and examples?

It is a question that I hear from almost every parent, homeschooling or not.  Or a version of the question –

  • How do you do it?
  • I couldn’t do it!
  • How will we teach Algebra? Forget about Trig!
  • Will they be held back in life for my own shortcomings?

This year I have changed up my teaching style completely.  Part of the reason comes from their ages – but for the greater part – I do not see that age would made a difference. Show them a problem to be solved, give them the tools and questions to start the thinking process – and then – this is the hardest two parts

– Step Back
– Hush Up

When I first heard of the First Lego League, FLL – I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to meet other boys in our small town. I thought the boys would enjoy being more purposeful in their lego building  – that it would fulfill their desire to play with robots and electronic gadgets.

I learned a bit more about FLL and saw that it would involve alot of thought process in the software programming. Creativity in the building. Engineering a working product for a specific task.

Then, I went to a parent training to see if FLL was a fit for our family – I came out of that training not only fired up about the opportunities for our community – but opportunities for our home. For me to grow as a Coach and a Mentor to my own boys  – and less as a tell it – show it – direct it all teacher.

One of the core values of FLL is that the Kids do the Work with the Guidance of the Coaches and Mentors.  They come up with the solutions to the problems. Once they come up with a solution – the game is on to come up with a HOW. We know what the mission is – we know how we can do it – HOW do we get it done. Do you have Get it Done children or Chatty Opinion Talkers?

Are we cheating our boys by fooling them into believing that finding the answer to a problem is the final step?

Are we cheating our boys by believing that their tiny bodies is an indication that they are tiny thinkers?

I came away from the training as a Lego Coach – a Rookie – Filled with ideas – but no idea of how to pour them into the kiddos. And – Strangers. Kids I had not met yet from a pubic call at the library for Lego League Participation.  I have spent hours on line – browsing blogs, reading instructions, learning from other’s experiences – and then – each week before our meeting – I fret. How can I dump this information into 7-10 kids? Of ages from 8-12?

And each week it happens. I show them the project for the evening – and they run with it. Faster. More Clever. With greater scope – than I could imagine.  Are they brilliant Engineers and Developers who will win programming and building awards this year? Not likely. But they are willing. Creative. Eager. Chock full of Ideas. Like they have just been waiting for someone to ask. – What would you do? and then give them the opportunity to do it.

Last week I studied for HOURS on gears, grabbers, claws, movement, rotations and attachments.

DSCN7679I left two of the boys alone for a moment  – and they completed the first mission. On their own. Their choice of where to start. Wait says one, we need to change the robot. The other runs off for a part. An attachment is added. Wait – It goes too far to the left. Not Far enough. and finally – within a few minutes – it is going just right. The syringe is in the base, several times in a row with accuracy. We get points for the mission, and points for the red legos (blood cells) being in base.  They get – Accomplishment. Can Do.  I get – Humility and Amazement for these boys.  If you are using NXT you will see their very fancy attachment to the right of the robot. KISS.

We gathered at the library this week with the Driftwood Robo Sharks.  They had three members this week. We each learned how to tweak the building of our mission parts, by tweak I mean  – fix. We shared ideas back and forth on what we could do to accomplish the missions. We spent about an hour just playing with the gears. For time  – and the interests of my team members   – I do not see them incorporating the gears into the design – but the tool and skill is there now.

Yesterday we spent an hour on learning how to program the light sensor to have the robot follow a black line. We didn’t get the robot to move forward, but it did find the line and stay on it. I think if we had an extra half an hour or so to tweak the program – it would have worked. By we – I mean they. I had fun sipping coffee and listening. ‘We have a question’, they would ask. All the hours of research would help me to direct them to find their answer.

Another team member got excited because their school teacher purchased three cameras this week just like mine – and will have the kids take turns documenting the school days and activities. I thought – Hey! Why am I taking pictures?  So I handed the camera to our team mate.  The Photo at the top of this post was taken by him. I LOVE it! A few of the photos below were taken by him too. Do you see the joy and intensity on their faces.  Do you know that they are Failing their Task? And Loving It?

Three months ago my boys would have walked away perceiving a failed attempt to be a stopping point. They would have waited and asked me for the solution. I would have researched until I found it, did it for them, and then showed them the results. 

How long will we let our children fail? How often will we watch our children fail? My hope – is longer than we have been. Equipped as coaches with the information to guide them, to get them back on track – to lead them towards a solution – but in a way that they can claim ownership for the results. How many other areas in life could this relate to – if we allowed the failure time and saw it as growth?

  DSCN8183 DSCN8185

TACO the Robot playing on the black line. I say Boys – because I have two, and my blog is about training Middle School Boys through Homeschool – but for our Taco Force Team – we have amazing girls too!!!!

Due to time restrictions today – I popped on this light sensor. I have learned through Lego League Coaching that the final position will work better in a more central position to the wheels. This light is more to the right hand side. I learned from the team  mbrs that they didn’t want me touching the robot. I had to explain that it was just to help us with programming. They will create an attachment for the light sensor – that does not block their front motor, and centers it between the wheels.

 DSCN8189 DSCN8192 

I got the idea to work on the Black Line Follower this week from Lego League Coaching – and used the Building Sheets from the NXT Robotic Guide as the tool for the kids to review for skill learning.  The Coach from Lego League Coaching had a moment to answer the team members’ questions yesterday – so I forwarded his suggestions to them today. I am excited to see how they grasp and run with his suggestions.   If you are reading this – as a Rookie Lego Team or Rookie Lego Coach and need great tips and quick response  – get involved on the LLC website!

As a side note – half of our team worked on the Line while the other half worked on the Project tonight.

I am writing this post this morning – honestly – overwhelmed. I don’t want to paint an all is perfect with my coach’s heart with this post. The tasks are daunting to me. Change is not easy. After these weeks, I see that Time has Proved the results. I know that the Lego League Core Values has proven results.  For each area that we gain skills for – a plethora of questions emerge of what else they could do – or should be doing. When the kiddos leave for the evening – I am drained. Sitting Back and Hushing Up is pretty hard for me. 🙂 I am glad to have great parents step up as co-coaches and mentors! What I want to leave you with – this mid season – flooded with a feeling of being overwhelmed – is that If We can do it  So can You! Don’t Give Up! Keep Finding the Solutions – and making them Work! Taco Force Rocks!!!!

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
This entry was posted in First Lego League, Lego, Some Schooling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Am I Cheating my Boys?

  1. This is so cool. I have three little boys who aren’t quite old enough for this yet… But as huge lego fans, I’m sure they would love to do something like this when they are older.

    It can be so hard as a parent/teacher to step back and let them figure things out and to find the balance on when to provide some direction and when to just keep out of it… I liken it to wearing gags and handcuffs!

  2. If my son saw this post he would go running from our home school to yours! We signed up for what was supposed to be a lego science class last year at a charter school and it turned out to be very, very boring. Very little direction, no projects that took any thought… it was a mess. I’m hoping I can find something like the First Lego League where I live. My son would flip for this!

    I’m visiting from the HSBApost Blog Awards nominees page. You have a great blog.

    Be blessed
    Rachymommy –

    • pebblekeeper says:

      Thanks for visiting! First Lego League is a world wide organization. I took one coaching class that was supposed to be a 2 day event but since our town is tiny it was a one day all day event. After that I applied for ORTOP (Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program) and qualified for the scholarships to pay for registration and the supplies. Google FLL or FIRST Lego League in your area – I bet there are teams! If not, as in our case, I bet there is an organization like ORTOP who is looking for you!

  3. theCoach says:


    Thank you for the high praise. I remember being a rookie coach and not having any practical resources to apply to my team. I’m glad I am able to help rookie teams get up to speed faster to be more successful than they would have already been.

    I am impressed at how well you stay out of your team’s way. It can be very difficult at times watching them go a bad direction. At the same time, they can surprise us when we think it is a bad direction, but it actually works. Sometimes I think I ask questions that are too leading in the way *I* think they should do things.

    I also admire your courage for starting on such a venture with so little support in your community. I don’t know that I would started a team without the community support I have.

    Congratulations on how well your team is doing. You may be surprised at how much more they will accomplish.

    Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

  4. Amanda says:

    Good thoughts for me to stew on as I ponder how to make my younger boys more independent in their work and activities…You always help me to think forward. I’m blessed to have a friend that is a few steps ahead of me, what’d I do without you Angie? What would I do to have a coffee date with you..? Hmmm. I may have to work on that. 😉

  5. Honey says:

    I think we as a country talk down to our children. We assume because they are small or young they are inept in some way. Size and age never means not as smart.

    Check out some montessori info for respecting and staying out of the kids way. You’d be amazed at what they can accomplish while our old brains are still figuring it out.


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