…the library…and the computer…

I mentioned before that I have spent time in the past year de-schooling myself. As my children have never gone to school (Nic attended non-compulsory preschool 2 days a week when he was 3, though, which drove us to homeschooling) they do not need de-schooling.

But as an adult who attended public school, I have certain ideas/tapes/routines/expectations in my head about the educational process and what progress looks like. As I said before, it’s no wonder that from the outside homeschooling can look questionable. Benchmarks, evidence of tangible and testable learning, that’s what education (an industry, not a process) looks like.

I just started reading Einstein Never Used Flashcards ( link in the sidebar). In it the authors attempt to debunk the ‘scientific findings’ that fuel much of the phenomenon they call ‘accelerated childhood,’ and to more completely explore the scientific research.

Hundreds of pages later, I suppose, they will re-iterate the conclusion they stated in their introduction: play = learning

So, for me, working on de-schooling myself can look/sound something like this:

{me} Nic, you need to DO something productive with your day.
{Nic} I’ve been designing and building with Zoobs all morning, that’s productive.
{me} I know, but that’s not what I mean.
{Nic} But I used my brain, and I built stuff, and I’m correcting design problems…?
{me} Yeah, you’re right. Never mind. I forgot to see it the way you do.

Nic really does build in a way that would make some designers (robotic, especially, I think) stop and watch. His very organic process of trying out designs, identifying the flaws, testing for mission suitability, redesigning, retesting, mission completion — it’s very rational and functional. And then, he does something that makes us ‘product oriented’ adults gasp, he takes it apart and starts again. For Nic, the point isn’t the creation, it’s the creating. He learns through this process of experimentation. His critical thinking skills are awesome.

If I listened to my fears, I’d harass him about practicing reading and writing and math. And he’d get the message, loud and very clear, that ‘education’ is the boring stuff you have to do to get back to the stuff you want to do.

And the stuff he wants to do, that is really about the organic learning process. That is the stuff that will stick with him. And, ironically, that is the stuff that drives him to learn to read, write and compute more accurately. He is finding that he needs these skills to do what he wants to do better. And when he self-determines these things, there’s no fight, there is only the natural drive to acquire that which will help him meet his objectives.

Yesterday afternoon, he was playing a Clue Finders computer game (here’s where the library and computer references become relevant 😉 Are you familiar with Clue Finders? Here’s a link: Clue Finders at the Learning Company.

Nic’s played, and mastered all the grade levels (3, 4, 5 6) before, some with more parental-assistance than others. But he comes back to them again and again. Each time he needs less of my involvement. Yesterday, as he played, he needed me to remind him how to do some of the multiplication and division problems. As he is a natural ‘math in my head’ child, his struggle is with remembering how to do higher order problems on paper. But he got it quickly and showed me how easy math comes is for him.

Today I’m sure he’ll be right back at it.

So what are the ingredients for the organic learning process? In our home, I’d say:

intelligent, eager learner(s)
mostly tv-free space
rich learning environment
engaged parent(s)
freedom to meander/choose
absence of pressure
freedom to experience constructive boredom
time to daydream
healthy food

Other than ‘environmental’ items, I’m not much needed in that list of ingredients. And that’s how it should be. I just have to remember it all the time…