As a relaxed homeschooler increasingly persuaded of the power of a child’s natural ability to learn, I’m always reading the thoughts of educational reformers who have tapped into this forgotten phenomenon.
The Everyday Genius: Restoring Children’s Natural Joy of Learning, is the incredibly fascinating book I’m reading now, and so far, I love his ideas on how children learn so much differently from the way schools teach. (He’s not a homeschooling advocate, per se, but where school teachers benefit from his research, homeschooling moms so much more.)
And quite by accident, I had the chance to see one of his learning examples played out this week. In one way it’s simple, in another, quite profound. He tells the story of a method by which a group of miners were taught to read. They were asked to tell about themselves, while the woman teaching them recorded their words. She then typed them out and the next day, handed them their own words to read.
Once the words were recognized as their own, both familiarity and intrigue/interest in seeing their words typed out, caused them to much more easily learn the words they were reading, which encouraged them, gave them more confidence, and facilitated their desire to read more.
Coincidentally, the day after I read this, our sweet neighbor friend who is an artist and a book-binder, took my younger girls to her studio where she taught them to bind their own books (with hand-painted covers). They left them blank to fill in later.
Of course the girls came home excited and were eager to write their stories. For one, her reading/writing is a little slower, so she dictated and I wrote the words.
But afterwards, I asked her to read the story. What Kline described in his book was exactly my experience with her. She read much more fluently, even the harder words, and was excited to read it several times, to different people.
The difference? It was her book, something that interested her (as opposed to just being handed a random Dick and Jane book), and the whole process was meaningful.
The secret ingredient to real learning, then, is that students learn and remember what is interesting and meaningful to them. Our job is to present information in such a way that it becomes interesting and/or allow them to pursue learning the things that already interest them.
If you think about your own learning, you know that what you really learned well and what has stuck, are those things that you need or in which you are interested. That, opposed to “force-fed” learning, is far superior and way more fun.