Sunday, November 7, 2010

Learning With Oak Meadow

Learning is natural, school is optional.

I came across that quotation on an Oak Meadow board the other day. I don't know who said it first, but it really resonates with me. If I had a true homeschool room instead of dining room that the homeschool tsunami struck, I'd have that quotation painted on our wall.

Humans have an innate desire to learn. If you don't believe it, just spend some time with some boys who play Yu Gi Oh, Bakugan, or Pokemon. My boys have played or are currently playing all of these games. They can talk to you about the minutiae of the games until your eyes glaze over and your brain goes numb. At one point, my older boys knew the names and evolved states of all 200+ Pokemon. Seriously. They never took a class. They learned the details because they were interested and excited Pokemon, so learning about it was natural. (I should confess that during our Pokemon phase, which seemed to last years longer than it actually did, I often commented that I wished the children would put as much time and effort into memorizing, oh I don't know, something like the Periodic Table as they did into memorizing Pokemon.)

If you don't believe that learning is natural, just step into my kitchen right now and watch my daughter trying to teach herself how to use chopsticks. She's been at it for 15 minutes. There is no teacher standing over her and there will be no test. She got chopsticks on a field trip last week and she wants to learn to use them. It's that simple.

While the idea of unschooling appeals to me on some level, I have never bought into it completely. I think that people (and kids are people, too) need to be exposed to lots of different ideas and activities to find out where their interests lie. I also think there is value in learning about some things that one does not find particularly interesting at the outset. When my children ask, "Why do we have to learn about
that?", I like to tell them, "Because knowing things like this makes you a more interesting, well-rounded person." (It sounds so much nicer than, "Because I said so", doesn't it?)

Oak Meadow does such a great job of building on a child's natural desire to learn while gently guiding them through a fabulous, well-designed curriculum and exposing them to lots of interesting subjects and ideas. I see it as a homeschool curriculum with an unschool-y feel. Both of my children have studied topics this year that they probably would not have chosen to study had they never been exposed to them, and they have been excited about them. The OE Dad even commented again last night that we are having so many more, "Hey Mom! Listen to what I just read!" moments this year. I "blame" Oak Meadow.

Instead of asking a child to list 5 animals that live in the ocean, Oak Meadow asks them to, "Go to your library and check out a book about the ocean biome. Learn about ocean life. Describe 5 animals that live in the ocean and draw one of them." In response to that question, Thing 3 said, "I need to get a book on rare ocean life. I already know about dolphins, sharks and whales. I want to learn about ocean animals people don't know about." In fact, several times in the last few weeks, Thing 3 has gone beyond what was required in his research. Success!

When you take the "schooliness" out of school, as Oak Meadow does, learning is not confined to a certain time or place. It becomes natural again and can happen anytime, anywhere.

Learning is natural, school is optional.

1 comment:

  1. Oh - that last part struck me - Thing 3 wanting RARE life. This is when real education, real learning comes to life and they are processing what they learn, not us filling the bucket of their brain with twaddle.



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