Saturday, February 6, 2010

al einstein

"I never teach my pupils; I only provide the conditions for them in which they can learn."

- Albert Einstein

Facilitating learning vs. traditional teaching. I understand this is a hot topic, loaded with opinions and passions! I'd love to start a respectful conversation about this. Would anyone like to begin?

I'll be back later - the hippie children are running amuck. Freebird loves dancing on the kitchen table. She's quite good at it.


Anonymous said...

Let's start with the question of whether humans (children) naturally learn without prodding from others. Can we rely on people to want to learn what is necessary to participate in our world? Or will children simply want to wallow in video games and hollywood movies?

What do you all think?


Amy said...

Oh, My. What a bleak perspective, Kathy. It's been my experience, in general, and with my own little ones, that they are passionate about learning.

They are busy and explore and experiment and test, and try. They do these things all day long.

I think little people lose the passion to learn when someone stifles it, either an adult who is too critical or creates a learning environment that is to rigid, or when parents want peace and quiet more than they want to let children be children, or when things like movies and video games are encouraged over the use of open ended toys, books and creative opportunities.

Anonymous said...

The concept I love most in the Montessori philosophy is "the child makes the man". Reading her extensive writings will clarify this to mean that each decision we make creates a part of our character. We learn from what we choose to do. We become the interaction of our choices. Certainly a Montessori environment is created to have engaging materials presented to the child at a time when they are developmentally ready for specific topics. The facilitator certainly offers plenty to the child and makes studied choices, including teaching orderly processes and constant modeling, but does not dictate. All social animals are born wanting to join their culture, pack, or flock and will watch the adults to find out what to do. The adult has great influence, more so even when they are not using force. Offering choice in a safe environment also offers the child the opportunity to develop self acceptance and self awareness, without which they cannot make decisions for themselves in the future, no matter how much they have been forced to read. I've met a lot of very well read people with addiction issues. We need to be connected to our physical, emotional, and intellectual experience and that requires a good amount of self direction, self awareness, and acceptance of that experience from adults. (Not that the adult has to agree or follow, but they have to respond in acknowledgment of the child's true feeling, which can only happen if the child's true action (unprompted) can be seen.)
As far as video games and hollywood movies, people watch them because they are available and mildly entertaining. Children see adults watch them. Some are actually interesting. When children are obsessed or easily over stimulated by them it probably has more to do with lack of choices, inability to make a choice (and therefore following the path of least resistance) or a retreat from situations that are rejecting. I am an exhibiting artist, but I rarely drew in my house as a child because I did not want to hear anyone's comments on my drawings. Creative or important things I kept private. My family enjoyed watching TV because it was impersonal and did not involve communication. So that's what we did together. Also eating and going on educational trips during which we didn't have to talk to each other.

Anonymous said...

I know that Kathy works with older kids and I know that both of us have worked with kids who really do get all of their mentoring outside of the home. For some of these kids the public school system is their best safety net. I typically have worked with younger kids the first year they enter school. The difference between the children who make choices and develop self awareness and the children who can only attend to a teacher's wishes is substantial. They do give up. Some of them just give up on adults and wait until they leave home to figure themselves out. Some of them give up on themselves. The message is please us or do nothing. Passiveness becomes an easy rebellion.
Not every family is emotionally, financially or academically prepared for unschooling, home schooling, or researching private schools. I really want to honor those teachers in public schools that are trying to work as best as they can to be responsive to children's needs while satisfying the giant system just enough to let them stay there and do their work. What we need is for teacher training programs to begin discussing different methods of instruction, different community dynamics and how to manage them. For some reason having an adult at the front of the room telling everyone what to do has become one of our most precious institutions. It's my experience that what adults have to offer children is a little more experience in handling arbitrary practical issues like driving, human culture, social etiquette. Emotionally available families can offer acceptance and welcoming and the ability to understand ourselves and relate to others. Children can teach us much more about learning, because it's all they ever do. They are the experts in that field.


Sorry.... there is a word limit......

Anonymous said...

Awesome comments!

Just to 'defend' myself, I do believe that children want to learn and are constantly learning...I was just bringing up a question that I have to field on a regular basis.

The question is a bleak one and I believe that the conversations that SRV refers to us having about school are vital. We have been worshipping this beaten, dead horse that is our current educational system for too long.

So, let's keep discussing!


Anonymous said...

Right on Kathy! That question does come up a lot. The only real difficult thing about that question is that people only ask it to create a defense and therefore they aren't really looking for an answer.

So I say let's live fabulous lives out loud and let our children shine really bright. Words will not be needed. Mostly I think people just need a lot of healing to be able to make change. Speak up for the good even in small situations. I realize it probably shouldn't take 4000 letters to do that.

Keep on keeping on Kathy! Thanks for the question Hil. Lucia and I are off to the studio.


Hilaree said...

Hi everyone!

Thank you all for taking the time to comment. I am ruminating on which direction I'd like to take this conversation - especially since so much was brought up. I feel a little like we're combining too many aspects here to have a cogent conversation - child rearing, child development, classroom education, home education, and how we treat children in general.

Also, I feel like this type of forum is difficult in many ways. While I know all three of you personally, we may at any time have anyone from the internet commenting and we just don't receive the entire picture from a random blog comment. You are all amazing women with varied backgrounds and a commitment to families, children and education. We definitely cannot make assumptions without thinking about tone and background.

Kathy - I was so pleased that you launched our conversation with that question. I feel so comforted by your presence here. You are one of those people that always make me smarter. You were brave to pose it that way. What I feel like you are also trying to say is this:

"Do we trust children?"

Amy - You may have misunderstood Kathy's meaning. Her tone was meant to be inclusive, as in, "What do we as a culture believe about children?" She could have easily and alternately said, "Why is our culture afraid of children, believing they
need to be lorded over like criminals?" She was just getting the conversation started. She is the least "bleak" person I know, so it alarmed me a bit to have her so misunderstood.

Amy - I agree that adults' criticism, a stifling or rigid environment or parental insistence of quiet, seen and not heard children are all contributors to small people feeling more and more vulnerable, and less and less like the amazing humans they are.

I work on these things all the time in my own tone with my children and the children I know. I try to ask myself, "Am I being too rigid here?, etc."

But then again, you've been to my house, so you already know that! :)

I would like to perhaps explore what it means to be stifling to children.

SRV, you kick ass. You are an endless well of superhuman child development knowledge. Every time I talk to you I learn something new. I'm stll ruminating on everything you said. One of the main points I'd like to consider is the idea of the adult in the front of the room telling everyone what to do we unknowingly translate that deep, deep cultural belief into our homes as well, or with children we know? Do we really believe as a culture that adults know everything and that CHILDREN KNOW NOTHING???

I think we do.

Thank you all for coming here. Let me think a bit, and then I'll post a new question with a bit more cogency, so we can get somewhere.

Peace to you all! Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hil,

How did you know it was me? j/k
anyway.... I think I just learned the word cogent!
1) Could we consider how we can effect teacher training programs from a grass roots level?
2) Everybody send me an essay on your experiences as a teacher/ parent and the shared dynamics you experience when working with your kids. I have book ideas, but I am not going to put anything together without a group of shared voices.
3) If we really want to discuss, we may need a yahoo group? Am I being pushy?

Thanks everyone... off I go the resident rock star has a show tonight. :)

Strawberry Red Vehicle

Hilaree said...

I used the word cogent like twelve times, didn't I.

I don't want to moderate a yahoo group - also, there are about seventeen cogent ones in existence already.

Hm. Not sure where I want to go from here...bigger...smaller... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....too many ideas.... as usual you are full of ideas as well. I don't think I'd have an opportunity to write anything other than what I already do for this infrequent blog. At least not right now.

I think I'm going to post another, more specific idea in a few days. But that's just me.


Monica said...

Hi Hilaree!
It was so much fun meeting you today! Unfortunately I can't access your email through my computer for some reason. Write me if you would like so I can share the information with you that we discussed!

Monica :)

Anonymous said...

What a great topic, and learning so much right now about "life learning" that I have found myself with more of those kind of days than a more typical homeschool day. And, it really is more fun to facilitate learning than teach a topic, especially with a spirited high-needs child. Would love to talk more about this, I had sent you an email in response to your comment on my blog -, did you ever get that?

Angela -

Lori said...

too much here to respond to :) but wanted to just throw out that learning based on following children's interests does not requiring prodding from an adult, but i do believe it requires a strong and focused adult learning partner .. someone to mentor the child as he or she grows into a well-rounded, self-directed learner.

there seems to be a black/white mentality among some homeschoolers/educators .. either the teacher is completely in charge or the children are running rampant and just following their momentary whims. there is a rich middle ground to be explored together.