To follow up on my previous post about homework, which really got some passionate discussion going on Facebook and on West Indian Mother, I thought it might be a good idea to explore learning from real life. It's creative, fun and all parents do it, though they may not realise it. Here are just a few of the ways my son and I have learned together over the last month or so...
We had fun writing letters in flour...or baking them, for that matter...
I provide the tools, and my son jumps right in to any activity I come up with. In this case, he helped me mix and knead the dough from scratch, then cut and rolled the croissant "C" shape himself by making a triangle. And of course, he was happy to sample the result!
Science? We learned about metamorphosis as we observed the first phase of the process - caterpillars eating and eating, just like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a book he's read a hundred times. I love that he makes those connections and ties new information back to other things that he knows and understands. As we were watching, he came across one particular caterpillar who seemed to have lost his way. We tried to get him to crawl upon sticks and large cocoa leaves, until J decided that the best way to lure him back to his feeding spot was to find him a leaf from the (Frangipani) shrub that all the others were munching from. Of course, it worked.
One day, we took a road trip and visited the Temple in the Sea. As a child who likes stories, we thought he'd love this one, so we talked about what hard work it must have been for Sewdass Sadhu to build the temple from scratch and then, when the authorities ordered it torn down because it was "on state lands", his courage and determination in rebuilding it, bucket by bucket, in the sea, where it would belong to no man. He made the observation, as I suppose most boys who love construction would, that it would have been a lot faster for Sewdass if he had a digger and a backhoe. Interestingly enough, there happened to be a funeral going on at the cremation site a short distance away, so the kid, noticing the rising flames of the pyre, also got a lesson in the different ways that people say goodbye to someone who has died.
A couple of weeks later, during one of our garden walks, we noticed that the cocoa seeds my son had been munching on the day before had started to attract tiny fruit flies (and a large beetle), so we discussed the process of decomposition. Not in so many words, but you get the idea. (We also helped the beetle get right-side-up after we took the photo).
One day, he decided he wanted to be a doctor, so I pretended to be sick while he learned about measurements...
Another time, we did some creative building with toothpicks and beans, then deconstructed everything and made "bean boats" which we raced down the drain until they got stuck. He then did a little experiment - entirely of his own accord - with water and a bowl and determined that beans sink, so they make terrible boats. After that, we found some shards of dried bamboo that floated much better and were very zippy racers.
One weekend, as I was doing some gardening, the little agriculgturalist remembered that he had come by some corn needs and that we should definitely plant them. So under his direction, I dug holes in the soil as he poured the seeds out of the bag. Then, we covered them up with dirt and watered them. Two days later, a slew of very determined seedlings greeted us. So we learned about the different parts of a seedling and how they grow into full plants, a la "The Tiny Seed", another Eric Carle book that he loves. Of course, I figure since he had to wait for the seedlings to sprout, he also learned a little lesson about the value of patience.
Parents do things like this every single day with their children and this is where some of the most meaningful learning takes place. There's factual knowledge being absorbed, but there's also emotional growth that's going along with it, because parents are spending the time - and those moments are the ones kids enjoy most; the ones that stay with them and help shape their character.
How do I know? Later that day, my son was discussing mangoes with his grandmother, who was lamenting the fact that the birds kept getting to the ripe mangoes before we did - not ideal when the kid loves mangoes. And here's how he responded: "Nana, the birds get the mangoes at the top of the tree and we get the ones at the bottom. Birds need to eat too. That's their food - and we need to share with the birds." Now, that tells me he's shaping a worldwiew that's going to serve him in good stead in life, which is just one more reason I'm so glad he's learning from it.