29 March 2009
Short weekend thoughts on learning...
The last few days have been amazing; she has started using her reference books, really using them...
I look things up online myself, when I need some information, and although I DO use reference books sometimes I don't talk about what I'm doing. It's one of those invisible activites in our house. But Jenna does have her own reference books, looks in them from time to time, doesn't read them, but likes to have them on her shelves where she can see them. I think before now they just made her feel grown up, like if she wanted to know something then she COULD, it was just finding the right book (and someone to help decode it for her)!
On Saturday she suddenly came running in from outside, clutching her bird book. She thrust it at me, pointed at a picture of a blackbird and said, all in a rush, "What kind of bird is he? There's one of those in the garden RIGHT NOW and I saw him and he's the same as the book!" I said he was a blackbird, and this picture is of the female and this is the male, and she ran off with the book in her hands again calling back to me that she KNEW it was a boy blackbird anyway and she was going to go and see if she could see any more of the birds that are in the book!
Then, after we saw some frogspawn in a pond, she came home and went right to the bookshelves to look for her encyclopedia. After much frowning she demanded to know which book she would find frogs in, and when given the right volume she flicked through to find frogs and spent a happy half hour talking about ALL the pictures of frogs, frog bones, frogspawn, tadpoles... She can't read enough of it to decode any more meaning than she gets from the pictures, but it has still shocked me that this has just come, so naturally.
She is curious, she wants to know more, she goes and starts trying to find something that will tell her more. And it has so little to do with me apart from facilitating by finding volumes or reading words out to her!
I think that this is where so many people don't understand what it is exactly we do - even people who have heard of unschooling or have read a bit about it. It's easy to give the impression that unschooling is still something that we DO TO a child. We wait for a teachable moment, and then we teach them something. It's something they're interested in (yay) therefore we can try to fit our knowledge into their heads... But that just isn't what's happening in our lives; we're learning and developing all of the time, but not through teaching/learning. Just through living.
Not that I never talk about things I'm interested in, or try to share something with her, or answer her question with an explanation... Just that when I share something with her I'm not expecting her to learn it, or trying to make her understand it. There IS a difference. There feels like a difference: and I know all too well when I'm trying to teach instead of just be with her.
The book use is a big deal to me. It has shown me that I'm not crazy to think that this is working well for us, and has clarified for me that I don't WANT to be a teacher and I don't need to be. If I saw myself as teaching homeschool I would have introduced the reference volumes to her. I probably would have made a point of using them to look things up. The moment she showed an interest in them I'd have explained how they work and how to find things by letter of the alphabet. And any time she asked a question, I'd have gone to the books and looked it up, and tried to get her to decode the pages with me.
But I don't need to look for learning opportunities. Or teachable moments. I just need to live. Because she's watching... Even the things I think are minor and invisible.
Walking today Jenna spotted the blackbird at the top of this rambling. She was so excited we had to stop and take a picture. The knowledge is hers, not mine. Gained in her way, not mine. I can trust this process. It's a beautiful thing to watch.