homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Which We Put the Pieces Together

Rats, this would have made an excellent title for a post wherein I celebrate C's great love for, and great skill at, assembling jigsaw puzzles. Alas. Let's just let that sit as read and go on to something a little meatier.

One of the neatest things about watching an emerging and developing intelligence is seeing your child apply knowledge in new ways, and follow a train of thought to their own conclusions. Call it extrapolating, call it synthesis. It's when they take a known (or new!) concept and apply it in different situations, of their own choosing. It helps them to cement learned skills, but also encourages them to, well, to experiment. To gain new skills by asking, "If I can do THIS with these tools, what if I use them in this way?"

Granted, it's a very hit-or-miss proposition, but I delight in seeing them be brave and confident enough to come up with their own ideas. Yesterday we attended our first homeschool co-op. I had mixed feelings about it, as we have been following a more organically flowing, "life" based path. That is, we learn what we're interested in or ready for, but we don't use a curriculum, tests, etc.. For my kids to suddenly have to adjust to "raise your hands quietly and wait to be called on" was a bit of a culture shock. C ran from the room in anger and frustration once on that count, but was soon enticed back (by his own curiosity...I know him too well to have tried to compel his return before he was ready). They were both initially shy, but also both eventually found something in the experience that set their eyes twinkling, so I'm going to count the day as an overall success.

The subject of the day was music. A new friend invited me to join her homeschool group for an outing to see a "Tiny Tots" concert put on by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra last week. FTR, it was very good: a brief (for those young attention spans) selection of well-known tunes grouped around a theme. The show we saw was called "Fast and Slow: The Tortoise and the Hare", and included a selection of pieces with differing tempos. We kept with this theme in the co-op, and the mother who led it (a former music instructor) did a number of activities with the children to illustrate rhythm.

The final exercise was teaching quarter and eighth notes, "Ta" and "TiTi". She used flash cards and had the children build their own rhythms and clap & sing them out. Before we left, the kids got to make their own musical note flash cards.

At home later that night, the kids wanted to play with their new cards. Yay! They're excited about something new! But wait...they wanted to make new cards, first. Okay, nothing wrong with that.


It soon became apparent that some of those eighth-notes were getting a few too many partners. It's okay, I have a background in music and if they wanted to do sixteenths, I was down with that. But five? Gah, I'm getting flashbacks to the horridly confusing and suddenly-switching time signatures in the first movement of  Reed's "The Hounds of Spring". But that's another story, and *my* issue. Five is do-able. Confusing, but do-able.


Okay, now this? Is just getting insane. I had a little battle with myself then. Do I use this as a teaching opportunity and encourage a little restraint and refining? Or do I sit back and for just this first moment, enjoy the fact that they are excited about not just "reading" musical rhythms, but creating them?

Of course, then they wanted me to clap out their new rhythms with them. Um...


"Don't worry, Mom!" I was encouraged. "It's easy! Just clap six times, and then clap three more times!"

Oh. Is that all? LOL

Another recent example of watching the kids take a skill and run with it is my beloved refrigerator and the alphabet magnets. I've used them as a "strewing" point...I'll spell out simple words and the kids will try to sound them out. I use it as a message center, letting the teens know that we're "AT LIBRARY" or reminding them to "LET DOG OUT". The most fun is the guerrilla messages that Stepson The Younger  (14) leaves from time to time.


My favorite surprise message from him was "I AM LORD [his first name]MORT" but since I've gone all coy on listing the kids' names, I didn't feel it was fair to post the photo. He's a funny kid.

Anyway. C is a reader. Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you that? C CAN READ! He is excited about identifying words, he will eagerly work through beginning readers, and he has also taken to using the fridge magnets to sound out and construct them on his own. Not only does this delight me in an "OMG-my-baby-is-reading" sense, but also it shows that he is comfortable with phonics (T struggles with them, alas) and is learning how spelling *works*. Which is why this:


...does not represent "money", as you might think. Nope...he announced to me that it spells "MOAN", and went on to explain that "the silent E tells the vowel to say its name".

Yes, yes it does. And look who's been paying attention to The Electric Company! ;)

By the same token, this:


is "Pluto". And for sheer phonetic creativity, I love this:


Spiderweb. Yeah, he had to help me on that one, but ya know...it kind of *does* work.

Now, a note on "invented spelling". I delight when C takes a stab at unfamiliar words because it shows that he is gaining skills in matching phonemes with symbols and learning the rules of construction. However, I realize that there is a growing trend amongst many educators to not correct spelling at increasingly higher grade levels, and this troubles me (and not just because I was an English major!). I was floored a few weeks ago when Stepson The Elder (17, 11th grade) brought home a graded paper he'd written on a historical figure from the Mediterranean region. The teacher either completely missed, or chose to ignore, the text where he identified this person's location as "Ancient Grease". Really, when I see stuff like that, my heart hurts. There is a time for "creative exploration" and then there is a time for "coherent communication". We *will* do spelling words eventually, and I *will* insist on good penmanship and proper spelling and grammar. Anything less is sloppy, and therefore ineffective, communication.

But today? Today is for finger-painting...for exploring something new and learning to enjoy it. We can refine technique later.

No comments:

Post a Comment