Tuesday, 1 November 2011

When they are ready, they will learn

The concept that kids will learn things readily and easily when they are ready is one that homeschooling is a huge advocate of. Learning to read or to do math have been skills that have frustrated many students in schools. Children painstakingly sound out letters into syllables and words, and have no idea what they have read by the end of the sentence. Other children look at the abstract concept of numbers and don't understand what is actually means.

Kids can be ready to read generally any time between three and nine. That is a huge age difference. Most schools require their students to know how to read by grade one, or six years of age. But many simply aren't there yet. And so what happens is that these kids, being forced to spend hours pouring over words, start to hate reading. And that is the worst of all.

Homeschooling philosophies say that the best thing you can do to promote reading is to foster a love of the act itself by reading to your children. Then one day the child, on his own terms and in his own time, will be curious to know how it is that the letters come together to tell such wonderful tales. This desire will foster the dedication and diligence it takes to learn to read, and in no time at all it will all come together for him.

This philosophy always made sense to me, but I was able to see it in action two weeks ago with Colin. This experience was in relation to math, rather than reading, but equally applies. I was sitting in our church service, Colin seated next to me. He had several toys, books, and a pad of paper and a pen around him. He took pen to paper, scribbling away while I listened to the talks. Then he tugged at my shirt and handed the paper over to me. He had drawn out several simple math equations, and asked me to complete the answers. I was somewhat surprised, as he has not covered equations yet in school or at home. But somewhere he had seen what one looked like, had assimilated the idea of it in his mind, and was now trying to replicate it. (My guess is that the grade twos in his class were doing work like this, and while he was supposed to be at his own grade one work, he was watching with interest the older students. I LOVE split classes so much!)

I quickly completed the equations and passed it back. But he pushed the paper back to me and asked me to write some problems for him to do. I turned my attention to the task at hand, carefully crafting questions that someone who had never done math before might figure out:

He completed the sheet as quickly as he could read off the numbers. Then he asked for another. This time I tried to do the next step up: putting the lower number first (2+8), or adding numbers that equaled more than ten:

This sheet didn't slow him down a bit. So for the next one, I tested him even more:

By the end of this sheet, the service was over, and so ended our math time also. Colin asked if we could do more when we got home. "Math is so fun!" he proclaimed. "I beat every question you gave me!" I thought it was cute that he considered solving a question "beating" it, like in a game. I also thought it was endearing that he loves math, because I always did, too. I secretly used to love soling math homework questions!

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