The biggest challenge (and joy) in growing without schooling is learning to trust our children, to respect their desires and to allow them to take the lead. Sometimes it is difficult to say, “it’s fine that Sy doesn’t want to write this week,” or “24 hours of just make believe play is learning!” Yet, both of these statements are true. The problem is simply that we’ve all grown up in an educational system that removes us from the world we are supposed to understand, where only certain forms of knowledge are valid, and those are compartmentalized and stripped of all contexts. Sy and Violet are learning and they are learning a lot. Certainly, they are both amassing what one might consider “book” knowledge: Violet is already counting to 10 and saying her ABCs; Sy can read words with various consonant blends and vowel combinations, count to 100, and tell you the difference between carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. Yet, what is most interesting to me are the ways in which they have come to understand things and to do so in great depth. Sy knows more than I ever did about dinosaurs because he wants to know. No amount of coaxing, rewards, direction or punishment could move him to delve into a topic for so many hours per day the way his desire to know and learn can. This is how we came, today, to do research on amoebae. Before the nap, we read The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, about a giant squid that thinks it’s the largest thing in the ocean, but ends up being eaten by a whale. At the end of the book, a small fish on the copyright page says, “I’m bigger than plankton,” to which Sy responded, “Plankton’s not bigger than anything.” I responded by saying, “Well, a plankton is bigger than an amoeba,” which was enough for him to decide that we needed to look it up after the nap. We spent about 20 minutes on the internet looking at drawings and photos of amoebae, learning about how this single-celled organism can eat without a mouth, stomach or digestive system (using pseudopods and a food vacuole), learning about where they live (fresh water, salt water, in the soil, in other organisms - “like us!” Sy said). While it seems ludicrous that an almost 4 year old can assimilate such knowledge, I know he’s learning because it interests him, because he relates what he learns to experience, because he returns to the things he likes over and over again, and because those interests lead to other related interests (the discussion of amoebae actually led to research on hammerhead sharks - there is a shark in the book - which led to an attempt to identify all of the sea creatures on the final page of the book - eels, rays, sharks, squids, octopi, various fish, etc.)
Here’s just a brief glimpse of the things we worked on this week:
Music: Violet and Sy have both been singing A Rum-Sum-Sum and High and Low in music class this week (tapping out the macro and micro beats, changing words to fit various actions/scenarios, incorporating the names of friends into the revised songs); Sy has been playing Twinkle A-D, Honeybee, Hänschen Klein and Cuckoo on the piano, he’s supposed to start Mary Had a Little Lamb this week.
Art: “Flag of India” - at Indian buffet on Monday night, Sy saw the flag of India and decided to look it up online, he then made his own version; observational drawing (bananas, pencil can, lollipop drum, cardboard box); painting: batik (dripping wax onto paper, painting over, ironing off wax); window ornaments: tracing, cutting (star, heart, oval, circle from batik painting)
Storytelling: weaving parts of The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat, Hänsel & Gretel, Rotkäppchen and various dinosaur facts, Sy is beginning to create “jokes” and “stories.”
Science: dinosaur, amoeba and shark research
Math: Uno (counting, matching, sequencing), Sy’s game of “I love you 160 million degrees” (we try to increase the number and form of measurement to the best of our ability)
Reading: “Word Card Game” (reading and matching words ending in -an, -at, -ay, -e, -ee, -ick, -in, –ish, –it, -on, -op; consonant blends ch-, cl-, cr-, dr-, fl-, kn-, pl-, sh-, sl-, spl-, st-, th-, thr- )