Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Children are amazing
Photo from http://learninginstitute.lego.com/
Children are amazing. If anybody out there is having doubts about a kid's capacity to learn (and to love it), please research homeschooling. There are thousands of blogs out there (much better equipped than mine) to demonstrate how it's done. These are the resources that gave me both the hope and courage to teach my own kids the things they need and want to know.
I saw smiling kids holding up homemade projects they did almost entirely by themselves and realized with admiration that those were genuine smiles and complex projects that taught them a ton. I remembered my own first projects, including a cut and pasted map of the world where instead of memorizing the country names and positions, I was admonished by my fifth grade social studies teacher to make sure I used the side of my colored pencil and ONLY COLOR IN ONE DIRECTION. Yes, she yelled that last bit. Presentation was more important to her than social studies - than our actual learning. Seeing these other families thrive in their homeschool efforts buoyed me up and gave me hope that my children could do a similar map exercise (but maybe with food or clay) and really learn. Without anybody criticizing their burgeoning art skills.
I saw difficult times. Parenting is not a picnic. Well, homeschooling is parenting on steroids. There are golden, euphoric moments when you think, "I am the luckiest person alive." And there are those times when the proverbial poop hits the carpet (or maybe not so proverbial) and you think, "I am a horrible parent and my kids are little monsters." Reading the blogs of other families showed me the light and dark moments in their lives, and prepared me for the burn-out, the lazy tendencies we all have, and the stress of keeping all the balls in the air.
We're only in preschool, although at times Gilgamesh is doing Kindergarten grade stuff. I know we're just biting off the first layer of the jawbreaker, and I'm perfectly content to be in that position. Because I also know I'll just keep learning alongside them. We'll try methods or curricula that fail for us, and we'll get back up and try something else. We'll have days when it seems like nobody learned anything valuable.
But they are learning.
Today, Gilgamesh saw me playing with Alastor and his mini stone collection from Disneyland's Grizzly River Gift Shop. He got up from playing Starfall.com (basically abandoned the shiny technology) to investigate these polished stones with his magnifying glass. The rocks are beautiful and enticing, just the sort of objects I was attracted to as a child (um, and still am). Suddenly, Gilgamesh's eyes lit up and he said, "Do trees turn into stone? You said that, right?"
My jaw didn't drop or anything, but I was surprised. He remembered me pointing out petrified wood at the Botanical Gardens in San Diego's Balboa Park! He'd been manic that day, jumping off the walls and making me nervous for the plants and people surrounding us.
But he'd heard me. In that bustling, noisy moment, something I'd said interested him enough for him to remember. Petrified wood.
I took the moment to reinforce that yes, old, old trees did turn to stone, but not all stone came from trees. Some of it came from dirt compacted really tightly together or from erupting volcanoes. We talked about how some rocks are really hard and others are fragile and can break easily. And we talked about all the different colors. I pointed out they were naturally colored that way, not painted. We didn't go into depth about igneous rocks, or cleavage or specific hardness scales. There's time for that later. But I watched my boys play with stones together. Just rocks. Two boys playing on the floor with colorful rocks.
It was this simple moment that reinforced for me how natural learning occurs. It's all them. We're merely facilitators.
Children are amazing.