Saturday, October 5, 2013

Formal, informal, hands on, edutainment - are you pulling your hair out?

When anjali was one year old, I stumbled upon the Glenn Doman books for teaching babies to read. those who have followed this blog since those days will know, I tried it out, to husband's annoyance, spending hours every morning making doman inspired flash cards.

It is probably the tinkerer in me rather than the Scientist, but when i see something that sounds promising, I would try it out instead of thinking it through and evaluating the pros and cons of doing it.

Well, the Doman business had its issues and flaws and we all know that it didnt really work in the way it was described in the books, but it did initialize our interest and ability to take control of the girls' learning.

Well, from Doman, we moved to homeschooling, unschooling, music based education - you name it. We read "einstein never used flash cards" and decided to just let the kids grow. I dug up onn montessori, Reggio Emilia and walfdorf - after finding a beautiful book on Waldorf inspired toys in the library and concluded that all that education was about was not content, but environment. Here are some of my personal mantras

=> No matter how good a school a child  is in, if the child does not have a good learning environment at home, the child is not going to be interested in learning

=> A good learning environment is not a neat desk and chair in a corner of the place, with books neatly on the bookshelf. A good learning environment is one which is filled with people who are themselves learning. I got this out of freakanomics where there is a chapter about how kids who have more books at home read more than kids who go more often to the library. The analogy being that kids who have more books at home have parents too who are interested in reading. Ofcourse I wonder if that applies when I have few books of my own on the shelf but thousands on my kindle.

=> The responsibility of the adult is to provide a learning environment and to demonstrate an interest in learning. I have seen this in both kids, especially in Sophia. if I show her something Sciency and then move on to cook dinner, she loses interest pretty fast. On the other hand, if she sees me sitting with my arduino hacking set, she will come over, press a couple of buttons and make conversation about what is going in. Personally, I would prefer to handle the work before the girls wake up so that I can focus on things properly, but it turns out that it is much better (for the kids) to watch and interact with you when you work.
 So go ahead and let your kid make pancakes. It will only take double the time, and, maybe cause a couple of stressful moments, but all of you will be more enriched at the end of it.

A friend of mine, who coordinates Hackidemia in Singapore wrote about the last Hackidemia at Science Centre.  There are even a bunch of pretty cool videos at the hackidemia Singapore website.

I think it shows quite clearly what a stimulating environment and a bunch of co-learning adults can do to the exposure, awareness and learning interest of children. So, as we work with our kids, let us not take on the role of teachers. Lets take on the role of partners and learners and do something enriching for both of us, instead of doing a cloze passage for the thousandth time. 

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