My son Woody turned six in November of 2011. That would have been the kindergarten year for most kids, 180 days that mark the beginning of the school career. But Woody did his learning in the big, wide, beautiful world, without school being a part of it.

I'm Teresa Honey, and I kept this blog to document this time in my son's life, to share pictures and stories with far-away friends and relatives, and to add ours to the many stories of families living rich, engaging, loving lives with learning happening all the time and in many forms, totally inseparable from every other part of being human.

Here you'll find 180 or so learning moments recorded from August, 2011 to April, 2012 in the life of a 5-turned-6-year-old radically unschooled kid.

Monday, December 19, 2011

84

Woody and Daddy Honey played Scrabble two nights ago. Since Woody is getting to where he can make real words, he wanted to keep real score. So, Daddy Honey showed him how to do it, adding up the values of the letters comprising the words, then running a tab. He showed me yesterday how it was done.



I looked at the way he lined up the numbers, listened to how he added out loud ("Six more than seven, let's see, six more than seven is 13,") and thought about how much time is spent on these concepts in school. Days of math class. Weeks, maybe. I remember that being so frustrating as a teacher. Some kids would get a hold of a concept in ten minutes. Sure, you could offer them activities and worksheets and puzzles and problems to reinforce the ideas, but that mostly bought you time to catch the other kids up, the kids who needed it explained in a different way, or shown with different tools, or who just needed a little more time to sit with the ideas, turning them over in their brains.

A veteran teacher friend described teaching as running a race while carrying all the kids. In order for everybody to finish, you had to get some kids running on their own. But others, you knew you'd be carrying most of the year. Still, all had to cross the finish line, so a teacher tried his or her best to keep the track interesting enough that the running kids stayed on the path while the other kids got scooped up from time to time to keep everybody together.

So much time in school is spent this way, managing different learning styles, and different paces of learning, and different personalities, and different circumstances. It's why some kids get bored and others get frustrated. Kids' brains are crazy fast. They want to be learning. They don't want to be waiting, or spending hours plugging away at concepts they're not quite ready for, or performing exercises that just aren't helping them to reach the goal. They want to 1) do what they like and are interested in, and sometimes what the people they look up to like and are interested in; 2) they want a good, honest challenge, something that pushes them to the edge of what they can do but that doesn't overwhelm them (and then they like to master that challenge); 3) and they want to be doing something useful and good and fun that helps them accomplish a goal or that brings them praise from their tribe, that is seen as a significant contribution.

That's not exactly true. It's not just kids that want that. It's all of us.

(The link above is to Daniel Pink's TED talk on what motivates people. It's fascinating, and after watching it, you'll never want to offer money for grades again.)