“You would have to lock a two-year-old in a dark closet to keep him from learning the foundational skills upon which other learning is built!”
As what some call a relaxed homeschooler, I’ve always had somewhat of an aversion to traditional schooling, or the classroom/textbook method (even when I was a high school teacher). Please don’t get me wrong–there are wonderful things textbooks can be used for: one of which is stacked on top of each other to elevate a little one to the dinner table–just kidding.
Seriously, we do use textbooks and some elements of traditional schooling. And as children get older, I find them to be more and more useful. However, like many other issues in life, I think it is essential that we all carefully question our methods, measuring them against our goals, instead of what everyone else is doing, or has always done. (My motto: don’t do anything before you ask “why” and have a good answer.) There is a grave danger in going with the flow. The “flow” doesn’t always end up where we want to go. We must make decisions now based on where we want to be later.
So, back to textbooks and why they kind of bother me, especially in the younger years. It dawned on me this week…my two-year-old was sitting on the kitchen counter while I was kneading dough.
“It’s bread dough”, I replied.
“Yes. Then I put it into pans.”
“You put it in-da-pans, Mom?”
“Yes, I’m putting it in the pans. First I roll it out flat, and then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on it, and then I put it inside the pans.”
In that 30 second exchange, my son had learned a number of things, one of which was the concept of inside.
My mind immediately reflected back to some little workbooks I had bought earlier in our homeschooling experience for my “kindergartners.” There were pages and pages of activities, flat pictures, on flat paper, expounding on the concept of in and out, up and down, big and little, and so on. There was a time when I believed it very important that my 3 or 4 year-olds complete those books or they would somehow not be “ready.” You know, because we’re always hearing in the media about the importance of “learning readiness”, the term intended, I believe, to frighten parents and convince them to hand over their children even earlier than they already do, because if they don’t, they obviously won’t be “ready”.
But the reality is, children are born ready; they are natural sponges, equipped from birth with the “readiness” tools they need to learn all about this wonderful world around them. You would have to lock a two-year-old in a dark closet to keep him from learning the foundational skills upon which other learning is built!
Instead, we take young children out of a natural learning environment (home), stick them in a stifling classroom where access to real conversations about real things is drastically hindered, and then we make them pore over silly textbooks which feebly attempt to teach them the things that would have been learned naturally if we just lived life! And the exercises must be repeated because it’s not real. Flat trees and paper objects just don’t make the connection in the world of these hyper-wired little people. We insult their intelligence.
I realize that many children LOVE textbooks and I am never opposed to using them–just not as an end-all to educating my children. If they like them, fine! But I don’t see it necessary at all. I think life is rich with all the tools these little “ready-learners” need!
Read more about the relaxed method we use in my book, Think Outside the Classroom.