Learning Through Teaching


My fourteen year old son, Devin, is a very creative person. He has recently started bladesmithing, which is making knives and swords. Yesterday he asked me to come outside and watch him make an entire knife from scratch. It was below zero out, but I bundled up and went out to watch the process. I watched him do everything, from getting the fire roaring hot in his forge with coal, heating up the metal, hammering out the knife, heat treating it, and sanding it down to a sharp blade. I listened to his step by step instructions attentively as I opened my mind to learn something new. He was passionate about what he was sharing with me, and I could tell that teaching me was very exciting for him.

Teaching is an extension of true learning. Over the years, I have observed this desire to teach from my all of my children. When Devin was only four years old he loved a television program titled, “Avatar, the Last Airbender.” I can still remember he and I being outside together on a warm spring day while he taught me about the different powers of the various types of “benders” on the show.  He gave me a stick to hold and explained how I would defend myself to each of them. He was “teaching” me about what he knew, and I could see that it was helping him learn in the process of having me be his student.

Over the years, I have come across quotes that confirm the idea that teaching helps to solidify knowledge.


~”In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ~Phil Collins


~“What I hear, I forget;
What I see, I remember;
What I do, I understand.”
– Old Chinese proverb

~ “We learn:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what we say
  • 90% of what we teach”

-Bobbi DiPorter’s “Quantum Learning”


Devin was very clear and focused when he was teaching me how to make a knife. He even had me try it myself, using the mallet to hit the hot metal. He encouraged and supported me through my fears of getting burned by the hot coal-fueled forge. I was reassured by my son that I could do it, and I believed him. A certain level of trust for the teacher is necessary when one chooses to learn something new. With a forced learning dynamic, I do not believe that this trust is ever build, crippling the learner and teacher, placing them in a dysfunctional relationship. It not only hinders learning, but it creates an insecurity within the teacher himself making him doubt his own knowledge and abilities.  Forced learning of any kind not only damages the student, but it hurts the teacher as well.

The act of being present through the entire process was a bonding experience for my son and I also, further deepened the trust between us. He was my only focus and I, his. Not only did I learn the art and skill of bladesmithing, but I learned that my son is strong, powerful and capable in his communication. When parents allow themselves to be vulnerable around their children, something blooms in the relationship that few parents today get to experience. When we stand as the student to our children, we allow ourselves to be seen in our incompleteness as humans. This vulnerability is essential for our children to truly understand that we are never done learning. Being a student is something that continues until we die. It is an essential aspect of becoming the people that we are meant to be in life.

When our children want us to watch them when they are very young, we sometimes feel it is boring and only give them portion of the focus that they are asking from us because we already have obtained the knowledge that they are trying to share with us. “Mama look!” is something that many parents frustratingly and half-heatedly entertain for a fleeting moment. However, this process of teaching another is critical on their path to mastery of an interest or topic. Being present and being in the position of the student helps your children by allowing the process of solidifying their knowledge. Do not overlook this important aspect of facilitating learning.

Allowing Devin to be my teacher, helped him grow as a person. He not only gained confidence in his abilities, he was able to be a mentor, a teacher and skilled supporter of someone else on their own path to learning. This give and take has been the pinnacle of partnership parenting over the years. I am grateful for all that my children have taught me. I am still learning from them, and they from me. This dance will continue between us for the rest of our lives together. I will always proudly serve as their student on their learning journey!

To visit Devin’s Etsy Shop and check out the knife that he made, while teaching me the skill, visit: Willow Iron Works


  1. Thank you for this! I have a deeper understanding of teacher and student now. When my daughter was 4 years old she said ” You teach me and I teach you, it’s the same”. I thought I understood what she meant then, but now I know that she understands more than me! All of your posts are so inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to help people interested in this life!

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