Saturday, October 07, 2006

what o'clock is it? and other random acts of discovery

D'y'ever have moments when you're going along, just doing one of the things you do everyday, but at the same time looking at yourself from outside saying "hey, look at that!" ? I had one of those moments with Morgan the other day.

I was folding laundry and she was eating cereal. Out of the blue, she asked "what number is 5, 3, 1?" So I told her "five-hundred thirty one" and kept folding laundry.

Okay, this is one of Mo's new games, to fire off a string of numbers and have me tell her what it is. Its just something she does, almost exactly like when she was just wrapping her head around letters and sounds when she would give me strings of letters and want me to pronounce them. With the numbers, on this particular day, she started out adding digets to the end of the string "what's 5311, whats 53111?" and the little "teacher voice" in the back of my head said, okay, we're working on place value, here. Fine. I started writing the numbers down in dry-erase marker on the front of the microwave, which sits on top of the dryer (gotta love dry-erase pens!). Then she asked "what's 631, what's 731?" Okay, still working on place value, but in a different way. "What O'clock is that?" huh? I thought we were doing place value! I looked at the microwave in confusion and noticed the time: 1:37. I told her the time and she frowned at me.

I went and got the "practice clock" - its one where you move the minute hand and the hour hand moves, too. I set that to the same time as the digital on the microwave. In the past I've tried explaining that the numbers mean something different for the "big hand" but she hasn't been interested, so this time I offered to get my new watch to look at, too. Its analog and it has the minutes written in tiny little numbers around the outside (and its pink with lots of buckles, in case you wanted to know).

She looked at the watch and the clock and the microwave.
"I want to write two o'clock" she announced. I moved the laundry basket and handed her the dry-erase pen. She wrote 2 12 and then went and set the practice clock to the correct time, short hand pointing at the two, long hand to the 12.
"Well, this is how this clock will say it" it pointed to the microwave's clock and wrote 2:00 above it, saying "o'clock" as I wrote the zeros. "The dots tell us its a time."
"I want to write it again!" I handed back the pen. She wiped out all the numbers and wrote: 00:2 and next to it "too oclook" I pronounced the oclook for her so she could hear the "oo" and changed the second o to a c - which she made a joke about, but she's seen ck's plenty of times in books, and I know she's aware of that spelling convention. Her attention shifted to playing with words and sounds, another favorite game. Math lesson over.

The only thing - the only thing - at all out of the ordinary, was me having a little "moment". Mo and I were doing what we always do. I was just watching myself doing it, as if from the outside.

I've been reading about natural learning for years, now, and thought I'd "gotten" it. I thought it was all about teachable moments. But the more I actually do it, the more it seems like there really aren't any teachable moments. Mo just keeps on learning, and sometimes she involves me. I can turn that into a "teachable moment" but most of the time she actually seems to learn more, or derive a better understanding, if I don't try to do that. Offer up another tool or another tidbit of information, sure, but if she's not interested, let it alone. She'll come to it in her own way.

I've been rereading the section on "strewing" over at Sandra Dodd's site and came across this:
Its about learning and cognition, from the perspective of someone committed to discovery based learning at home. It reminds me of the online montessori course I took this spring - there was an assignment about "lesson expansions" or some such thing and I kept wishing I had a gigantic piece of paper to fill with circles and arrows and webs of connectivity rather than a computer screen. Homeschooling with Morgan looks alot like one of those diagrams - she doesn't so much go off on tangents as make lots and lots of different connections, and I never know where we're going to end up. Even when she's really focussed on one thing - and she's good at that! - she'll make some comment, or start singing to herself, or something, and I'll see her putting things together in a way I hadn't expected. Is that what they call "synergy", in the business world: one and one making three? That's what Mo's process looks like most days.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

administrative details

Okay, I have uploaded travel pix of our trip East, but since I started that post a couple weeks ago you'll have to scroll down past my little ramble on educational theory. Just so's ya know what's what. Sorry for the confusion.

accomplishment and choice

This is from one of the message boards I'm on - its pretty much a ramble on the subject of discovery-based learning, kind of a sample of "where I'm coming from" in terms of educational theory, right now:

--- "Rob Andersen"
>> My underlying point is that I feel that real accomplishment, that
> thought, effort and perseverance in what ever field, has a great
value. That
> is: facing the possibility of failure and achieving a goal has an
impact and
> the more difficult the struggle the more profound impact on a person.

My reply:

I think you make a great point here when you bring up "the possibility
of failure". One of the differences between "school-type" learning
and "natural learning" that John Holt talks about is that school prioritizes
success, whereas real life learning has a lot to do with failure - not
just in the sense of "we learn from our mistakes", but that a great
deal of learning arrises out of a willingness to take risks - a
*willingness* to fail or at least acheive less than total sucess.
What's amazing about this (from the school pov) is that this process
of risking failure in order to learn is filled with joy.

I think a big factor in this is choice. Because I didn't choose to do
outdoor activities and my input was never sought or encouraged, I
really had no means of feeling a sense of accomplishment. For me,
talking my family into doing something else (even just leaving me in
the car!) gave me a feeling of success.

This is one of the things that draws me to unschooling, the idea that
individuals are given the opportunity to decide *which* obstacles they
will tackle, *which* risks to take, be they physical, social,
intellectual, whatever. That's one of the challenges (one of the
risks, if you will) of unschooling - to attempt to think *beyond* our
own understanding of what is valuble and see what our children value,
especially when those values differ.

> the more difficult the struggle the more profound impact on a person.

I'm not disagreeing with the statement, just noting that choice is the
key issue. I'm in the process of designing and piecing quilts made of
curved shapes. Its the most challenging type of piecing - most
quilters don't try curves. They're just too dang hard. I love it. Love
the challenge of drawing something and then figuring out how to
actually make the impossible thing I've imagined.

This past week at the skate park I saw my kid do something she rarely
does - she "shushed" another kid. The other kid wanted to play. Mo
wanted to skate. She wanted to go down every ramp in the park, over
and over until she could do it without falling. I don't skate, but I
could relate to the passion, and the willingness to fall on her ass,
over and over, and the joy that came from doing it.

---Meredith (Mo 5)