Home Education Magazine
March-April 1999 - Articles
Lessons Learned From the Bowling Alley
Janet Morris Grimes
Mention the words, and one thinks of an enormous, smoke filled room accented by loud music, the crashing of pins, and the thrill of competition at it's finest. Applause, a few moans and groans, and an occasional laugh are usually the telltale signs of how each bowler is doing.
Not exactly the perfect place for deepening a relationship, or so I thought. But for me and my eleven-year-old son, it became a haven where we could escape the pressures that we faced and have a little fun. As our bowling dates grew into a weekly ritual, I realized how much we were gaining from these excursions to the local Brunswick.
Andrew and I found ourselves at a crossroads. He had struggled through fifth grade, largely due to his Attention Deficit Disorder and trouble with organizational skills. He is a brilliant kid whose major problem seemed to be getting his work turned in on time. So, I decided to take a leave of absence from my job in order to home school him for awhile. I promised I would help him find a system of doing schoolwork that would be successful for him, and he promised to give me a chance.
But, as our roles shifted from mother/son to teacher/student, the potential for conflict increased. Our journey proved to be more difficult than either of us imagined. I had to remind myself daily that the road with the toughest obstacles is usually the one with the greatest reward.
It was during our first full week of "school" that we ended up at the bowling alley; his chosen treat for working so hard. Though we were both a little rusty, we welcomed the friendly competition, a refreshing change from the battle of wills that had been occupying so much of our time together.
So, we made a habit out of it. And week after week, he surprised me. Not so much with his ability to bowl, but with the quiet transformation I was seeing in him.
The first thing I noticed was that my fiercely competitive son was encouraging me. Granted, when your only competition is your mother, it must take some of the glory out of winning. While his goal was still to keep his score higher than mine, he would share advice on what techniques worked for him and give me high five's on those rare incidents when I lucked into a strike.
After receiving a tip from an expert bowler that "it is more a game of strategy than of skill," Andrew began to calculate his next move and watch for patterns in his approach to the game. For a boy who is normally impulsive and lives in a world where you act first and think later, this was a welcome change. He concentrated and took his time. He maintained some consistency in his game, and felt good about himself for doing it.
During one of our conversations, I started drawing analogies from bowling that also pertained to life. At first, he thought I was crazy, but I could see his mind working like he was trying to solve each puzzle. My guess is that he will remember these more than many of the other life lessons I have tried to instill in him.
This is what we came up with: If at first you don't succeed, go for the spare. If your feet slip out from under you, check your shoes. You may have been walking somewhere you didn't belong. As long as your ball is rolling in the right direction, something good will eventually happen. When everything goes wrong, call it a practice game and learn from it. Then, take a break and start all over. Sometimes, you get more accomplished with good effort rather than perfect form. If your ball keeps going in the gutter, you are probably too close to the edge.
The way I see it, when you find something that works, you keep doing it. Each week, we realized that we left with more than we had when we started, so we kept coming back. A tradition was born.
He isn't one to admit it, but I fully suspect some of his fondest memories of this homeschool year, and his most important lessons learned, will be from the one hour each week we spend together at the bowling alley.
©1999, Janet Morris Grimes
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