Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Measuring without Lessons

Jared and Alexa will often get some of their most creative energy at night. Jared especially loves to stay up, just laying in bed with me, talking and talking and talking and talking!  He will first want to put together a puzzle at 9:30. Alexa usually is more tired than Jared, and prefers to watch something, read out loud to us, or have us read to her.

That's why it was a little unusual when one evening she had this sudden burst of energy. She had seen Steve measuring things earlier, and after taking a bath, she ran into the kitchen, grabbed the measuring tape and wanted to measure everything. I'm pretty sure without exaggerating she measured about fifty different things. She learned more about measurement in that hour than it would take school kids to learn in months. She was just ready. She asked questions about the numbers, started to get the idea of twenty, thirty, forty and so on, and showed a lot of intuitive knowledge about size.

This would not have been as effective as a "lesson" in measurement. If it hadn't been at a time of her choosing and when she was ready for it, she wouldn't have been as excited, wanted to keep at it for so long, or retained anything she had been shown. Now, she has brought out the measuring tape on several different occassions this month and is much more curious about numbers. Both kids can count objects and tell you how many, say, carrots there are on a plate, up to at least the number 10. This really is just from playing board games, helping me cook, me asking them how many of something they'd like, and so on.

I've had someone ask me what if kids become young adults and not learn to read or do any math because they didn't want to. I had to ask how could you get to be 18 and not want to read or do math?  Would you at least want to drive a car?  You need to read to do that. Would you not want to know how much change you have, or how much percentage off you're getting at a big sale, or how much you still have to save to buy a new car?  I don't get how a healthy human being, who hadn't been tainted by a formal school institution, wouldn't be intensly curious about reading and math. If presented in an interesting way, I don't see why most people wouldn't be eager to explore algebra, physics, geography, biology, or any number of other interesting things about the world.

The secret is: be right there to answer your children's questions when they come up and allow them to explore these new ideas, even when it's getting late and you're tired. Easier said than done, but very important to remember.

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