The Hidden Message

Live from Seoul

It was 4 o’clock in the morning. I woke up and studied Korean downstairs, as I always do. I was reading “Live from Seoul” published by Japan Times (it’s in Japanese). I studied announcements in Korean at subways in Seoul, such as: “the next stop is Shicheong Station. You can change trains at line no. 1 if you want to go to Suweon…”. I liked the thought that I would be prepared if I ever had a chance to go to Seoul. By the way, if you’re learning Japanese, you might want to check out “Live from Tokyo”.

At 4.30, my 7-year-old son got up and sit near me. I asked him why he got up so early and he answered he got a test at school today so he wanted to study for the test.

I said, OK, let me see what you need to study. He handed me his “communication book” and I checked whether there was a message from his teacher about the test. It only said “Thematic 1B” which is a title of a textbook my son owned. The teacher’s message didn’t say which chapter of the book would be tested. Could it be the whole book?

I turned over the pages, and I decided I didn’t really care about the contents and I didn’t see the importance for a seven-year-old boy to memorize the facts mentioned in the book. I discussed some pages a little with him, saying,”See here. You need to memorize this and that…” but soon I gave up because there were too many pages.

And then I told him,”OK, then, just sit and study any part you want”.

He looked disappointed and asked,”That’s all?”

“That’s all what?”

“You’re not going to teach me?”

Ah… so that’s the message he got about “studying”: if an adult doesn’t teach me, I can’t study or learn anything. I’m not capable of learning anything on my own.

I told him, “Studying is not something that others do to you. It’s something you do for yourself.”

I doubted whether he could understand me because at that moment, my husband got in the room and started teaching him.

I always wondered why strangers send me private messages saying,”Please teach me Korean! Teach me Korean so I can learn!”, while I made it clear that I’m learning Korean on my own. My son just gave me the answer.

I got up, went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, and tried not to be sad about it. ###

6 thoughts on “The Hidden Message

  1. I think it is ingrained in us that many people can’t learn successfully on our own. But with the right approach and encouragement anything is possible. Maybe your son can learn from your example as he gets older.


  2. Aww. Your son sounds adorable </3 but yes that is a belief that is ingrained in many peoples minds for me though I can't say I have ever thought like that and I know why – I had an advantage for a long time. I was homeschooled. but for me I always had to go outside of a box and think how would this work? It wasn't a teacher it was me and my textbooks and a video teacher! Online tutor. But it was never I need my teacher to teach me I knew I could do it on my own ~ and I also knew if I didn't I would just fail the exams I had to take at the college where I have to have sit in exams, and if I fail who benefited? Not me!

    My sister though, who was only homeschooled for a year (she was not made for it xD) now becaus of the 'formal' education system she has had always needs teacher explanation ^^ to me I think I am better off because I learnt the supposed "write" way to study ~ it taught me to be imaginative about things not always need somebody

    Ah! Sorry I wrote an essay for you I'm sorry didn't think it would be long (hope you understood it!) and I am sure he will learn from your examples ~ which are awesome :p



    • Your parents are so open-minded to give you and your sister option to homeschool. Schooling comes with a set of beliefs that you want to unlearn as you grow older, one is that: you can’t learn without being taught.


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