The beauty of learning alongside children and not teaching to them is you get to really see them learn.
My latest example comes from my seven year old and our game of Canadaopoly. While purchasing a property for 310.00 he took his time. Not to consider the purchase itself but to consider how he would pay for it. He had a collection of all the different bills and sat there. It was everything in me to sit on my hands bite my tongue and keep the answer to myself. Ya see I’m traditionally schooled in the ways that you have to raise your hand before everyone else to show your intelligence and get picked by the teacher.
Slowly he gathered his bills. 2 – $20 bills and a $10 bill repeated to make a hundred, grab 2 -$50 put them with 2 more $50 and toss in a couple of $5, reach across the table and confidently announce $310.00. I could literally see him think. The slow pace. The gathering and rearranging of the bills. The considering with hand hovering over different values. The final decision to pay in this way. Brilliant.
Each purchase after this was done in a similar fashion. He would examine his bills and then decide which combinations he would like to put together in order to pay for his property. He demonstrated a full understanding of how to combine values. Not just in one way but in many ways. He didn’t pay his $50 dollar fines the same ever. Why? Cause it was fun not to. And cause he likes to make sure he has at least one of every bill.
I didn’t teach him any of this. I simply sat alongside him through long games of monopoly. I offered help when asked for it. I counted my own money out loud when paying for things. I waited. He watched. Through all of that he found his own way. His own understanding. His own patterns. His own preferences. And each of these were based on what he and only he can know about himself. The patterns created with in his mind are his to own.
When children are rushed to learn other people’s idea infiltrate their mind. They are railroaded into learning in a way that comes from outside of themselves. When the pace is set for careful observation, engaged participation and open ended time, a child will find their way to the information they seek. And it will be processed in a way that fully supports how their brain works.
I went to University for 5 years to learn how to be a teacher. FIVE years, to learn how to manage a classroom full of young people, how to fill their brains with information, how to excite, engage, observe, evaluate and to manage. I wrote lessons plans, lots and lots and lots of lessons plans. I borrowed lesson plans, I was graded on them and I consistently received A’s. Never once did I write a lesson plan that considered that the children who would be receiving the information would learn in a way unique to their individual selves. There is this assumption that prevails that all children learn the same and that if the lessons are misunderstood it is likely a fault with in the child. It’s heartbreaking really.
But my biggest teachers in the way of learning, hands down are my own children. As human beings we have a built in desire to learn. It is why an infant will walk, talk and explore (without any agenda from an adult). A child without a curriculum or outside agenda will not choose a life without reading or math. They will instead see reading and math in the world of play around them and engage in it. They will pick it up, drop it, turn it over, bend it and hang it on hooks of existing information. And as this knowledge base expands so will their thirst for information. And this thirst will send them forever searching. It will be the owning of the process and the personalized pathways with in their minds that will be the tools to prepare them for a future that in this day and age is completely unpredictable.