All of us can use a trusted adviser at one point or another. Sometimes this is a parent or grandparent. Other times it’s a trusted person in the community, in a sort of apprentice type relationship. Mentors can bring a lot to the table for a young learner.
When we look back at how people learned before the public school system was set up we see mentor relationships. Benjamin Franklin was an apprentice for a printer at the age of 12. If you had a skill you wanted to learn, you found someone that knew that skill and you observed them closely at their skill, and worked along side of them. You would learn the detail of the work at hand, and gain practical experience.
These mentor type relationships can still be valuable in modern day learning. It doesn’t have to be an official apprenticeship to have benefits. Mentorships allow children to be involved and active in the learning process. All you need is a curious learner and a willing mentor. Perhaps your child has a passion for animals. They may seek out a mentor at their local vets office, or animal shelter. There are often volunteer positions available where the child can work closely with the animals and observe the adults in their working environment.
Peewee had a positive mentor experience volunteering at a dog kennel. She cleaned out cages and got to interact with the dogs. She learned how to show up on time, how to be responsible and the basics of working in that type of environment. She also gained valuable experience that she has recently been able to put on her resume. She is looking for work with animals, and I think that experience set her on the right path to pursue that goal.
So how do you get started? Follow your child’s interests. Are they curious about horses, books, plumbing? Then think of those who you know that would have knowledge on their topic of interest . Perhaps there is a farm nearby that could use some help cleaning out stalls, or a local library that needs someone to shelf books. Maybe you have a neighbor that is a plumber and could use assistance one afternoon a week. Then make a plan to approach your would-be mentor, see what happens. Explain to them your ideas, get their input. If they are unable to assist, they may know another person or organization that can be of assistance.
This is also a great time for adults to look at their skill set and see what they have to offer in terms of being a mentor. Maybe you work as an accountant, do you know a homeschooler that has a love of numbers and would love to spend an afternoon a week as your assistant? Be open to the possibilities of creating these kinds of relationships in your community.
Have you had the benefit of a mentor? What skills do you have that you could offer to a young learner?