13 September 2010

unschool monday :: by the book

Despite having the world as our classroom, the owlets are sometimes drawn to workbooks as part of their learning. This makes things easy for me when it comes to writing up a curriculum that ticks boxes for the authorities, but its something that they seem to enjoy from time to time. It all started with dot-to-dots. Big owlet always loved them and recently she's been sharing the love with little owlet, showing her how its done. I'm loving watching them learn together and work co-operatively. For the most part they do...

Also amusing to me is the way they use these books. Big owlet is working her way through an approved Victorian maths curriculum workbook at the moment. It gets dragged out periodically so she can have a look at the bright colours and fill in the gaps... I find that books like this are designed to encourage a particular style of thinking. Often the questions are geared towards a certain answer or idea of what is correct. What I love is how when you have the mindset that anything is possible, the way the questions can be interpreted changes completely. One example... Big owlet had to write possible or impossible for various scenarios that could happen to her this week. Here are her answers:

You will walk home from school : IMPOSSIBLE
You will learn to fly : POSSIBLE

You see, faeries might come and take her flying - she wishes for it every night - totally possible!!

Then the next page is about number lines. She has to pretend her pencil is a frog, bouncing down the number line to subtract. What she creates is a page full of zig-zag squiggles. I take a deep breath and wonder at the logic. I can see that the answers are right. "The frog wanted to do really big hops because that's much more fun!". Uh-huh. She's making the book more interesting by creating stories. Using her imagination. I think about what the response would have been if I'd tried the same when I was at school - I know I would have been told this was wrong, probably made to feel a degree of shame for making the page messy... I wonder if its the same in schools today? Would this freedom of expression, where the process becomes part of the outcome be valued? My guess is no. I'm relishing our world where gold stars are for decorating or wishing on and not for rewarding neat work... and I'm relishing children who think outside the box.


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    Love it :)

    I think it's great for them to learn to be a bit freethinking and not take what is in the book (or on the internet) as gospel. If they are never allowed to question the little things, it could be harder for them to question the bigger things later on.

    Not sure why the creators of workbooks seem to think that kids need a reward for completing a page. We have got around this by saying that the sticker is just to mark which pages we've done. (That would be because my kids are so norty that they sometimes complete pages out of order!)

  2. Your unschool mondays always get me nodding and thinking Lauren!

    My daughter starts kinder next year and there's been a lot of thinking (agonising!) about where she will go and which school will be the best fit for her (she's delightfully unconventional and imaginative). Your posts have raised lots of interesting issues that have fed into our family discussions, so thank you!

    You must be so proud of your girl for noting that flying is definitely possible!

  3. haha Love the possiblity of flying but absolutely no way possible to be walking home from school! Great post!

  4. Surely those Steiner fairies will help big owlet to fly!

    Hope you're all feeling a bit better after your end of winter blah.

  5. Hi Lauren,

    Just found your blog via Bec's Memory Garden and wanted to say how beautiful it is.

    I'm a primary school teacher of over 22 years, and teach part time (4 days) a week at the moment to make room for my other passions!

    Just wanted to say that you may be right about your Owlet's answers not being appreciated in mainstream schools.... although I hope not!! I know I would have LOVED it if my students came up with answers like that and could articulate why they were doing so (but then I'm a bit 'out there' by mainstream school standards in many ways)!

    I value children's imaginations so highly... something to be nurtured and encouraged and celebrated!

    My love for great children's literature was probably the catalyst for my own imaginings... a great love for books is something I've always tried to instill and grow in my students via wonderful activities and adventures in thinking!

    So wonderful to find your blog (thanks Bec over at Memory Garden for listing it in your post today), and read about your beautiful world.

    Linda. xox :)


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