Trust The Children

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How You Think Children Learn Can Define How You Decide To Teach

This is a strange title for a blog post, simply because it seems to imply that home schooling is about a lot of "teaching". Teaching meaning the didactic, lecture, assume student's heads are empty home schooling mom's role is to fill it, mentality. That is not to say that all lecture is bad, it isn't. However if your goal is to develop in your children, through your educational choices, greater ability to make good choices when faced with a decisions, lecture might not be your best teaching choice. Imagine choosing to teach in a way, where good judgment abilities in your children are promoted and developed?

With that preamble, I would like to share a few quotes. Formal teaching in the home, can and does occur in homeschooling environments. I just feel that too often, formal teaching may be too frequently used, and used too soon in the life of a child.

I can envision smaller amounts of formal teaching from birth to age 10-12. So here are the quotes. Please read them before turning off to the idea.

How does learning actually take place in the heads of our children, or even adults?

MARIA ROUSSOU, (2004): "Current thinking about how learning takes place emphasizes the constructivist approach, which argues that learners must actively “construct” knowledge by drawing it out of experiences that have meaning and importance to them [Dewey 1966]. Participants in an activity construct their own knowledge by testing ideas and concepts based on prior knowledge and experience, applying them to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge with pre-existing intellectual constructs; a process familiar to us from real- world situations. The individual continually constructs hypotheses, and thereby attempts to generate knowledge that must ultimately be pieced together." p. 4

Now add to this idea of constructivism the following idea by Piaget:

"Piaget's constructivism is rooted in stimulating interest, initiative, experimentation, discovery, play, and imagination as fundamental to the development of a child's capacity to learn [Piaget 1973]. Play, in particular, can unite imagination and intellect in more than one way, and help children discover things at their own pace and in their own way." p. 4-5

Then Dewey:

"Dewey argued that education depends on action [Dewey 1966]. Piaget, known for his theory on the psychological development of children, believed in the role of action in development and the notion that children develop cognitive structure through action and spontaneous activity [Piaget 1973; DeVries and Kohlberg 1987].

The point of these quotes is to emphasize once again, that in the early years, home schooling parents are not required nor bound in any way, to "instruct" their kids after the manner of the didactic tell down approach found in the traditional school environment we all grew up in. Smart people who have access to lots of research and testing, have suggested that the early years can be a much looser instructional approach, and that kids still turn out ok. In fact, as we look forward to a future we cannot predict, but one our children will surely live in, developing a new set of skills by virtue of our educational choices, may not only be more fun, but also necessary.

It's hard for some, to imagine using an educational approach in the home, that may be different than the one we have been exposed to while we grew up. I am not suggesting that the approach we learned in our school experience is of no use. I am suggesting that in the early years, taking a too formal "teacher centered" approach, is not only more work for the home schooling parent, but in addition, might not be in the best interest of the student, your child.

Go back and re-read the quotes cited above, and let your imagination run a bit. Notice the bolded words in the Piaget quote. What would it take to create activities each day for young children, that met the standard of daily activities that promote "interest, initiative, experimentation, discovery, play, and imagination as fundamental to the development of a child's capacity to learn [Piaget 1973]

Maybe it's just as easy as saying, "Go outside and play". Sound irresponsible? It may not be.

You can find most of these articles by searching for the titles in Google or Yahoo.

DEVRIES, R. AND KOHLBERG, L. 1987. Programs of Early Education: The Constructivist View. Longman, New York.
DEWEY, J. 1966. Democracy and Education. Free Press, New York.
PAPERT, S. 1980. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, New York.
PIAGET, J. 1973. To Understand is to Invent: The Future of Education. Grossman, New York.
ROUSSOU, M. 2004 Learning by Doing and Learning Through Play: An Exploration of Interactivity in Virtual Environments for Children, ACM Computers in Entertainment, Volume 2, Number 1, January 2004, Article 1.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Please, Please, Please Watch This

Please Click Here and View the Video


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeschoolers using Social Media

The world is my educational Oyster!

The traditional view of education is one where students "go there" to get "it". They leave home and go to the school much like an employee going to his place of employment. Each day, at school (the learning place), education happens. Once out of school the rest of life, happens. While at school, teachers are there who have been given a curriculum, i.e. gathered material in behalf of the student, filtered it and prepared it and present it, so that students are one step removed from the actual material they need to learn. School is an interpreted environment. Rather than the student engaging with material of their interest where motivation to learn is natural, often much of the "school experience", (not all) could be defined as teachers engaging, interpreting and telling the students what the material means and what they need to know.

We might think of the teacher as a aggregator. This is a new term for many, but it means simply a person who gathers or aggregates material, synthesizes it and then shares the shorter version with others. In today's world of technology, even computers have algorithms, (forumlas) that "read" information and aggregate it, and then pass on the summary the computer produces to us. For us older folks, its kind of like "Cliffnotes", the short and to the point version of a much larger information set.

It is not uncommon for each of us to rely on and use people around us as aggregators. Whether we know it or not. We attend Sunday School, and someone is aggregating or interpreting information for us, and passing it on. We read a blog on the internet or even read the newspaper and in all of these places, information is being summarized and shared for our consumption.

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, in a very small sense, and the world of blogs, in a much larger sense, serve the purpose of aggregation. A parent or a child, can search the internet and find blogs or topics in Facebook or even people in twitter, who have a natural interest in a topic. Once found, we can study it, and even share our views on that topic if we want, entering into a useful dialog or discussion, which we can learn from.

All of us, parents and children, can, as students, use the work of these people and their sharing on the internet for our own custom educational purposes. Over time, if we find these resources, and the people who share them, trustworthy, we can leverage their natural interests to augment and inform our own. Some people call this a Personal Learning System. I took the time to draw out this example.

This is a more adult example, but still you get the idea. It's all free and it doesn't take 6 hours a day. And it is like school, in that you are depending on others to aggregate information for you. It is like school in that you interact with others, albeit online instead of face to face. It is different than school in that you as the student learn from "teachers" or aggregators of your choice, instead of those chosen for you by the school system.

And if you like, you can create a facebook group or join one already there, and share information with others in areas of your interest. In other words, "teach one another out of the best books". You can find "discussion" places on the internet, on about any topic, by just entering these words in Google, "Blog Sailing" or "Blog Quilting" or whatever your interest is. Once you find these places bookmark them in your internet browser, or better yet, have someone help you create a topic folder named "PLS" (Personal Learning System) right in your browser, and under that topic, put the links to the stuff you want to follow and are interested in. Then in one place you have your own "School" of sorts, easy to find and use.

Your homeschool kids can do the same thing. Of course you might want to have a Parental Control Filter there and create custom permissions for the right stuff for your children, and block them from the bad stuff. (On Apple computers this is a standard feature). The world is your oyster when it comes to learning these days. It's free, it's easy, it's convenient and only requires an internet connection and your desire to read and think. You say, you don't have time ? Well, that too is your problem to solve. If you study one topic for one hour a day for a year, possibly two years, you can become the world expert on that topic according to some experts in education (Who read about education for one hour a day for a couple of years). All it takes is the vision and the will to become the educated person you want to become. And help your children do the same.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Jon's Idea

Jon's idea was to point a website to It creates a wordle image showing the words use on the site. The frequency of a word determines how large a word is displayed. I need to process this a bit. It's interesting to see what is and isn't emphasized over the last 4 years of blogging.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just reading an article about narrative centered learning environments. This is where your lesson is a story line, and you insert the students into that story line as one of the characters. The example was an island where biological research is going on. A group of students get to visit the island as part of a field trip. While there, the biologists begin to get sick and must be quarantined. As the plague continues, the visiting science students have to take over and figure out where the sickness comes from and how to stop it. They can talk to "people" on the island. They can read the notes of the now sick scientists, and the can run experiments.

What is interesting about this was a measurement in this study of the kids attitudes (boredom, flow, confusion, frustration, delight, and surprise) while they did this lesson and how their attitudes changed or didn't change in the process of this learning experience. In this experiment, for many of the kids, there was evidence of all kinds of movement from one state of attitude to another. Some began bored, and then got into it and became delighted, etc. All except one condition. Can you guess which one? Frustration. Frustrated learners, remained frustrated learners. You just couldn't get them to transition away from frustration.

What then, creates a frustrated learner? This seems to me to be an important question to answer for home schoolers. If this study has any merit, it suggests that once a student is frustrated, it's pretty tough to get them off that stump.

Your thoughts?

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stream of Consciousness re: Education

Transfer, getting something from a class experience outside of the classroom and into students lives outside of that classroom, is a messy business.

The scriptures are full of declarative statements. i.e. the answers. it is our job to help our students identify and/or discover all the possible questions that led to the answer. When a student finds and expresses questions associated with the answers given there, pay attention! There is a lot about the student to learn from their questions. Also, Question -> Reflection -> Divine Inspiration!

Sometimes you have to dejunk to make room for more current needs. Giving knowledge away, even valuable knowledge, is one way of making space for God to give you more. Share your ideas freely. Even the great ones.

On my mind? Home, is the place where information can be put into practice, which allows us to make sense of it, through the use of it. Paraphrasing JSB, home, different from many other places, is where knowledge can travel person to person with remarkable ease.

One more. Ryle's argument... "know that" doesn't produce "know how." Bruner's argument..."learning about" doesn't, on it's own, allow you to "learn to be". Information, on it's own, is not enough to produce actionable knowledge. Practice too is required. For practice, it's best to look to a community of practitioners. JSB