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.


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