Thursday, February 23, 2006

Two Roads Diverged...

I was sitting at our local homeschool resource center with my 6 y.o. daughter, playing games and reading books, waiting for my son to finish his Movie studios class. A boy of about 7 or 8 is near us, tears of frustration running down his face, a math workbook in front of him. The lesson today is "rounding". His mom bends over him, pointing out how to round 378 first up to 380, then up to 400. Meaningless numbers on paper, divorced from real life, he has no interest in doing this right now and for good reason. An hour of tears on a sunny day, just to learn something that most kids figure out when they take their allowance to the store and realize that $6.98 is really $7.00

In an effort to spur him on, the mom comes out with "Every single kid your age has to do this. They all have to do this stuff. Now let's just get on with it." A total lie. Right there at the next table is a child who has never had to touch a workbook in her life.

The week before, it is another mom going over phonemes in a workbook with her similar-aged daughter. After an hour or so, my daughter leans over and asks her what they are doing. "Learning phonemic awareness," the mom replies. "You have to learn all of this before you can learn how to read."

"I know how to read already, and I never did phoneemie whatevers," my daughter replies. I try to stifle a smile, and the other mother all but puts her hands over her daughter's ears. Heresy, to question the approach of dissecting real-world tasks into lines and workbook forms. And it's so much harder if your kids ever find out that none of it is really necessary.

This morning, 10:00 and still in our pajamas, my daughter and I play a game of Monopoly. I land on Illinois Ave, $240, but only have a $500 to pay with. As the banker, she goes to make change for me. "How do I figure it, mom?" she asks. I walk her through rounding up to 300, and making change, pointing out a couple of shortcuts I use, like instead of subtracting 40 from 100, subtract 4 from 10 and then add a zero afterwards.

Several moves later, she lands on Pennsylvania Avenue, and figures out that 500 - 320 is 180, all on her own. A few more turns and she lands on a Chance square. Reading the card, she comes to a word she doesn't know. I help her sound it out. A little bit later, and Income Tax square brings up a discussion about percentages. We laugh and play around. I sell her St. James place at a bargain price, because she "loves the saints". We sing a chorus of "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In". We talk about New Orleans, which moves on to a discussion of hurricanes, tsunamis, why hurricanes don't happen here, what would happen to our chickens if a hurricane did appear here, why chickens can't fly as well as other birds, flightless birds of New Zealand, and a dozen other topics.

No tears. No workbooks. Real life. Real learning. And somewhere in the middle of this real life, she has learned her "phoneemie whatevers" and rounding too.

Yes, when it comes to learning we take the road less traveled by, And that has made all the difference


Karen said...

Robin - I'm so excited to see you have a blog now. I've missed hearing your thoughts since I don't frequent yaaps much at all anymore. I look forward to reading more about you and your adventures with your kids.
Karen/crunchy mum

Robin said...

Thanks Karen, it's good to see you here too!

Jax said...

thoroughly enjoyed that, not least as it's one of my favourite poems. Came by via the carnival, thanks for sharing.

Melissa O. Markham said...

Well said. I am a semischooler. I have one who loves workbooks and one who hates them. I always enjoy reading how others do real life learning. It gives me great ideas!

Anonymous said...

Hooray for your DD and for natural leanring/unschooling...hooray for posting aboutit, and why oh why must parents lie to their kids?