Saturday, October 25, 2008

To market, to market

We help out at a local travelling cooperative market (local, organic and/or fair trade foods) from time to time. This morning we went to help them set up in their town centre location; Rob and Emer went first and Linnea and I came along later.
Emer helped face the goods forwards on the shelves, largely off her own bat (no, we don't ask much of a two-year-old, but she tends to offer a great deal) and Linnea put out scoops for the dry goods, set paper bags out by the various sets of weighing scales, and even priced things with the price-gun, very carefully and effectively.

Usually when we shop Linnea selects foods and brings them to me to weigh, or counts eggs into half-dozen boxes for me to put in the bag. Emer carries things around.

I don't know what they are learning from this, but it's valuable, useful work, so they must be learning something. And they like doing it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


After buying shoes, and arguing about snacks, while walking through the centre of town, Linnea to me: "Two and five is seven, Mum."

Me: Yes.
Linnea: And three and four is seven.
Me: Yes.
Linnea: And six and one, that's seven too.
Me: Yes, it is. Six and one is seven.

Much later, I realised that this adding up to a number in lots of different ways is something I've seen mentioned in books and magazines as a stage in learning maths. Which is fine.

I'm not sure which stage it is.

But at least now I know she's learning something I can call maths when people ask.

Friday, October 10, 2008

EdPhil: Draft document, please comment!

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age ability and aptitude and to any special needs he may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Educational Philosophy

(1) Children are born learners. They learn to self-feed, to walk, to talk, with no teaching at all - all that's needed is example and opportunity to practice.

(2) People remember the things they wanted to learn, the things which interested them. Someone whose Bachelors degree was in mathematics might have difficulty with simple arithmetic (as far as I can tell, they all use calculators), but be happy with complex equations, and cheerfully able to rattle off the time and location of the world's most impressive stegosaurus fossil finds.

(3) People learn what they want to learn and what they need to learn. Many adults leave home and learn to manage a washing machine, write a CV, balance a budget, ask for and decline social or sexual favours, all without being told how by a teacher or parent - when it becomes necessary, they teach themselves to do it.

(4) People acquire skills at different ages and different stages. Some people learn to negotiate social boundaries first, others learn to multiply fractions first. Some people learn to sing before they learn to compose rhyming couplets, others can't hold a tune until long after they can recite their own poetry for hours on end. Some skills are never acquired by some people. Some are usually acquired by most.

(5) "Skills to be learned" is a very broad category. "Being friendly" is a skill. "Self-knowledge" is a skill. Literacy, hopscotch, numeracy, representational drawing, an eye for colour, plumbing, horse-riding, poetry recital, poetry composition, playing a musical instrument, designing a spaceship, washing the dust of ages from recently-uncovered bone combs, guaging the colour of the grass the cattle are eating and choosing whether to move them on or not, cooking, house-cleaning, grocery shopping, tying bootlaces, ballet, typing, handwriting, sign-painting, pottery, accountancy, graphic design, computer programming, rugby, goalkeeping, teaching - all skills. All learnable. Very few people have them all.

(6) Information to be absorbed is usually absorbed as part of skill acquisition or from sheer delight in the information itself.

(7) Who my child wants to be and who I hoped she'd be before she existed are not the same person. She is her own person. I do not own her. I have responsibilities towards her. These are not the same thing.

(8) My responsibilities towards my child are to provide her with the opportunity to learn what she wants and needs to learn (usually the same thing), to facilitate her learning when she cannot do that herself (which may include taking her places, finding classes or groups, acquiring equipment, etc) and to teach her when she needs me to. An important responsibility is to leave her time and space to just get on with things when she needs to do that.

(9) If the plan doesn't work, we can always change the plan.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fools in old-time hats and coats

Well, it was all my own issue. Linnea was quiet and attentive during the description of killing and eating deer, then more involved - active - something - for the description of building and using a smokehouse. The part which really disturbed me, as a child, is the pig-butchering, and that's coming up soon. We Shall See.

Linnea is very pleased that they had a dog to protect them from the wolves.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Growing accustomed

The children around us are getting used to being at school six hours a day. I'm not, but they are settling down ok.

And we're working out what is best for us, too. We need to go out less, I think; my children want to spend hours at home playing with lego and reading books and dancing.

I'm trying to make a handy to-read pile for the four-year-old as we can get through fairly large chunks in one go. Someone else I know is reading "Little House In The Big Woods" to a much younger child and I am going to flick through it to see how bad the butchering / beestings incidents are, because Linnea will notice if I skip whole chapters. She tends to hand me the book open at the page we were last on (presumably using the numbers?) when it's time to start reading again.

Edit: On page four she looks out her window to see two dead deer, and the butchering goes from there to the end of the pig bit, on and off. Now, she knows about meat-eating animals, and that people are made of meat, but me and my ex-vegetarian sensibilities are a little concerned that she'll react more or less like I did when I learned where meat comes from. I was a terrible, tedious bore, but at least I could eat dairy products. A vegetarian four-year-old would really complicate things on us here.

On the other hand, looking at the very first illustration, a Garth Whatsisname one of Laura skipping along waving her bonnet, and Mary walking primly along with an armful of flowers, I
see that I was set up from the very beginning to want to hit Mary in the face with a lump of green, stringy, slimy seaweed and stuff some crabs down her dress.

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