Monday, October 17, 2011

Children Are Natural Learners

It all started when Mary found a canvas binocular bag, complete with velcro closer and a shoulder strap. Her mind began working. What can I use this for?

Soon, she asked, "Mommy, can I be a newspaper deliverer when I grow up?"

After hearing my answer in the affirmative, she set about "designing" a newspaper to put into her bag.

Later I heard tears of frustration from very focused, very determined, almost-five-year-old Mary.

Unable to help--I'd already delayed my shower for other kid-related reasons--I enlisted Paul's help. "Please help Mary design a newspaper. She wants to make newspapers so she can deliver them."

Paul responded, reluctantly at first. Then his own mind began working.

Out of the shower, I found all four children designing newspapers. Thrilled, I commended them for including ads, since that was one way newspapers and magazines generate revenue.  Hearing that, they each cut ads out of a mail circular. Next, they glued them down and surrounded them with made-up headlines. (Miss Beth just practiced with her scissors. Thankfully, she doesn't get frustrated with how little she can do, compared to her siblings. She's just happy they welcome her).

"Fall is here!"

"New exhibits at the Cleveland Zoo!"

"Basketball this season will be in the house"

"Carriage and Wagon Rides 2 Cents"

"Free Help With AWANA Verses"

"Mr. Poller Comes Out of Hospital"

"Mr. Goodrich is 100 Years Old"

"A Parade is Coming on the 19th"

"Good Year Tire Factories Now Open!"

"Bulb Ads Coming March 2012"

"Bug Supply Ads Coming January 2012"

Newspapers were all the rage here for about an hour. I dutifully marked "writing" off both boys' daily school lists.

Later they asked, "Who marked my "writing" column?" (They usually do their own marking)

I responded. "I did."

"But I didn't do writing yet." 

I went to get their newspapers and showed them their "writing".

I love this about free time. My children often use it for learning-related schemes, never realizing it. 

In fact, the more I observe children, the more I realize that imagination unlocks so much of their potential.

The case against over-scheduling and teaching to the test has never been stronger in my mind. Children are natural learners

Serving them well, preparing them well for the future, means we must be primarily facilitators. 

- We must give them time to create.

- We must ensure that a variety of materials are always available (paper, glue, magazines, newspapers, paint, ink, markers, etc.), or allow them to innovate--even if it's messy. 

- We must encourage them by delighting in their work.

- We must use their creative works to evaluate their learning, and then target lessons to address weaknesses. 

They may demonstrate knowledge on a test right after studying, but if it doesn't transfer to their creative works, the concepts aren't quite mastered--they aren't second nature yet. Tests are one tool to evaluate learning, but the best way is to observe students create. What can they really do? Do they instinctively know where to go for information? Can they problem-solve? Can they innovate? Can they work with a partner--combining their strengths....supplementing their weaknesses?

Observing my kids and watching them grow, I'm so thankful for homeschooling. Only the one-room schoolhouse can duplicate, to some extent, what I can do in my home

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