“Timing is everything, in education as in many other fields. It’s not enough to teach well. You have to teach well to kids who are ready to learn, kids who are developmentally ‘ripe’ for learning.”
- Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Accidental Inspiration

One of the keys to the TJED model that we are using for homeschool is "Inspire, Not Require". I've debated a lot lately about how much to do for school. My four year old is only in Core Phase where the objective is mostly just family work and play. You teach the lessons of good/bad, right/wrong, and true/false through daily life with the family. He is very smart though, and he learns things really easily and quickly. So I try to do some school type things, but not pressure him into anything. I could easily go overboard and end up giving him negative feelings towards learning.

Well, this week we had the ideal situation. He was inspired and excited all on his own. We went to the library for reading time, and afterwards he walked around trying to pick out a few books. There was a display of books about space so he chose one of those, and there was also a display of dinosaur books and he chose one of those as well, along with a couple of other books. He has been asking me every day to read the books to him, I don't tell him it's time to study. They are longer books, so we only read a few pages each day so that we don't get too close to the ZPD.

(ZPD stands for Zone of Proximal Development, Lev Vygotsky believed that the ZPD was where the best learning would occur, and is what most education systems implement. It is just above what you can do on your own, but below what you can do with some help. This idea works great for adults in depth phase who need to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but not for kids! Kids should not be pressured or pushed. It will give them the wrong idea about education and they will develop negative feelings towards learning.)

So, we were reading about the Solar System and the book suggested making a solar system mobile. He got really excited about that and asked me if he could make a mobile. I found a printout of the planets on the Internet and he colored each planet, looking at the book so that he could get the colors just right. Then he told me which order they needed to be hung up in, to represent how close they are to the sun. (He's very particular about things like that.) I'm pretty sure he knows all of the planet names now, and I think that knowledge will stick around. He learned so much more than he would have if I had taken him to the library and said "Okay, we are going to do a unit study on space, so let's pick out five books about the Solar System and then you have to memorize the planets and make a mobile." He would have felt pressured and forced and he would have done it, but very grudgingly.

How do I know this?! This summer I tried to get him to learn the names of all the continents. He has a great memory, so I knew that he could learn the seven continents pretty easily. Well, it wasn't his idea, so he really wasn't interested, and it didn't work out all that great. He still doesn't know all the continents, BUT he does know all the planets...because he made the choice to learn about them.

This experience gave me a much better understanding of the art of inspiring. Even though I didn't plan out any of this and it was pretty much accidental, it worked perfectly. The art of inspiring, is learning how to spark your child's interest in a subject so that they will lead out and ask to know more. Oliver DeMille explains that "inspiring, in contrast to ignoring and forcing, means finding out what the students need and then creatively encouraging them to engage it on their own - with excitement and interest." This is obviously something that I need to work on doing more often and in a better way. If you look at my Daily Food for Thought from yesterday, there is a great quote that also goes along with all of this. It was so fun to see his excitement and interest in the planets, and it gave me some great encouragement to keep going forward with this method we are using.


Shimmy Mom said...

Congratulations!! I love when that happens. It's amazing and so fun to watch your kids learn and realize that it is sticking. I remember the first time my son (now 11) used the word innate in an every day sentence. He had learned it in a Science lesson but used it talking to his sister about a month later. I was SO excited.
All the hard work really does pay off and it does have it's fun and exciting moments.
Keep up the good work.

Cherie said...

I LOVE this post! This is a perfect example of why the leadership philosophy of learning is so important. I wish every kid had the opportunity to really learn. Love it!

Sounds like you're really, really close! I'm in Pleasant Grove. I actually attend a colloquium in Provo that I found through tjed.org. We'd love to have you if you're interested! If you leave your email address on my blog I can tell you more about it and we can correspond better that way. I won't publish your comment so your address won't be out to the public.

I'm so glad you wrote! Your blog is what I've wanted to make out of mine, just have had a few bumps along the way. So, it is what it is. We've only known about Tjed for a little over a year, but it's completely revamped and inspired us in incredible ways. I'm happy that you too have been able to embark on this journey. Can't wait to get to know you more!