Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Talking" to our Kids

My husband recently came across an article that discussed a study which found that children don't only learn science in the classroom. They also learn from experiencing places like the zoo and from (hold onto your hats) talking with their parents. We had a good laugh over the irony in that statement but it did make me think about what my children are learning from "talking" to us. We don't use curriculum for literature, social studies, or science. We read a lot, and we discuss all kinds of topics with our children. We talk about the books they've read and about what we've read. We discuss politics, far-off places and religion. The newest issue of Popular Science is always a favorite subject (my boys love Popular Science but I highly recommend tearing out the ad section or your children may get more of an education then you want).

Dinner time is often a place for spontaneous discussions. Last night Thinker started us out with a random, "If water is just hydrogen and oxygen, can you split it and get oxygen?" That question lead to a discussion on hydrogen-assisted vehicles and then onto scuba rebreathers. That is a chemistry lesson no one is likely to forget! In my opinion this is the very best way to learn. I am amazed by the things my children know that we've never "studied". The thing is, until recently I never considered these discussions to part of my children's "education". I guess sometimes it's good to take a step back and look at the all the things you're teaching your children without even meaning to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learner's Block?

Is there such a thing as learner's block? If there is, I feel like my family has a very bad case of it right now. Maybe it’s the cold weather/snow we’ve had recently that’s kept us cooped up in the house (we live in a 900 sq ft apartment, being in the house for consecutive days is enough to drive anyone crazy). Maybe it’s that Sponge has been sick. Maybe it’s that Aaron has been spending a lot of time doing school work to gear up for finals. Maybe it’s because we’ve been swamped with apartment complex business. Or maybe it’s some combination of all of the above. I don’t know. But we’re stuck.

Scientist and Sponge are still really young, so we don’t have a “curriculum” that we follow with them. But we do try to include learning into our everyday routine. Reading stories together tops our list of most popular educational activities; at least until recently. And maybe this is what’s frustrating me the most, and why I feel like we aren’t getting anywhere. Scientist has decided to assert his two year old independence and now insists that HE be the one to read when we do stories. He wants to read, fantastic! Only one problem…he can’t. Which results in the three of us sitting somewhere, with Scientist holding the book turning random pages in any order, and me trying frantically to remember the story, even though I can’t see the page to read it, and all of us getting frustrated, bored, or both within minutes and story time coming to an abrupt halt. We’re having similar experiences with coloring, play dough, and singing songs.

My more optimistic self tells me that this is just a cycle. That at some point things will pick up again, or something new will come along. While I “wait it out”, I’m keeping my eyes open for new activities, or a twist on some of our old activities. Something. Any ideas?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interest Lead Education

I've discovered one really big problem with interest lead education-we have too many interests! I find myself constantly sidetracked from current studies by new ideas. I am a creative, scattered person by nature so it is all to easy for me to want to drop everything to learn something new. It seems like everywhere I look I see someone with a wonderful new book to read, a fabulous new topic to study or a great new project idea.

When you strive to teach your children based on their interests you are always looking for some indication that they might want to study something new. I find myself trying to turn every non-fiction book they glance at into a new topic of study. Then I'm perpetually frustrated that we never seem to finish anything, so I'm getting a jump start on the new year and I'm setting three goals to keep our learning on track.

1. We will start each month with a plan for what subjects we want to learn about, we will list key books, projects and field trips that we want to do and I will review the list often to make sure we are on track.

2. When I come across a fabulous new idea during the course of the month I will put it on a list for possible future study. I find writing things down helps to eliminate the constant swirl of ideas in my head!

3. I will not feel guilty about not turning every momentary interest into a unit study.

Reading back through my goals it sounds much more structured then I'm sure it will be but at least it's a place to start! Wish me luck!