[FoRK] [silk] A radical new teaching method?

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Wed Oct 16 12:18:04 PDT 2013

Thanks for forwarding this.

We were extremely lucky -- there was a near-perfect fit between our kids
and the approach taken by our local gifted school (at the time -- various
changes, sadly).  It could have gone the other way -- our oldest boy had a
lot of problems and friction in his last year of Montessori kindergarten;
the methods that had worked well when he was younger no longer were
appropriate as he grew up.

The consistency of approach is one key element when combined with adjusting
that approach for each child.  If I may be permitted a short story:

My older son, then 8 or 9, left a book he needed in the classroom, but the
room was locked.  We went to the school's office and talked to the director
(the only one left at that hour).  The classroom was down the hallway, and
she thought for a moment, then handed our son her *entire* key ring (dozens
of keys for the entire building) with the request that he go down, unlock
the door, retrieve the book, and lock it up again before returning the
set.  He went off to do so without any help from her or me, and returned a
few minutes later with the book and keys.

She may well have gone down afterwards to check whether the room was
properly locked, but it was clear that:

* She thought about the appropriate response given my son's age, level of
maturity, etc.

* Once she decided what that response should be, she trusted him to do what
was needed without (visible) supervision.

Sharon, by the way, was an amazing teacher and educator, and brought as
much care and thought to all of her work.  She will be missed.

Ken Meltsner

On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:18 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> ----- Forwarded message from Heather Madrone <heather at madrone.com> -----
> Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 08:33:26 -0700
> From: Heather Madrone <heather at madrone.com>
> To: silklist at lists.hserus.net
> Subject: Re: [silk] A radical new teaching method?
> Message-ID: <525EB1C6.4090509 at madrone.com>
> User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.8; rv:17.0)
> Gecko/20130801 Thunderbird/17.0.8
> Reply-To: silklist at lists.hserus.net
> On 10/16/13 5:26 AM October 16, 2013, Udhay Shankar N wrote:
> > Can the educators, homeschoolers, and various other interested parties
> > here comment?
> >
> > Udhay
> >
> > http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/all/
> >
> > How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
> It's not new at all. Victorian educational theorists talked about the
> superiority of interest-initiated and delight-driven learning. The
> free schools have been using this model for over 50 years, and my
> mother (a psychologist) has remarked that she wishes there had been a
> local free school when my siblings and I were growing up.
> The unschooling theorist John Holt popularized this idea in the
> homeschooling community in the 70s. Most of the homeschoolers I know
> use unschooling when it works.
> For most children in most areas, interest-initiated or delight-driven
> learning works extremely well. You give the children resources and
> support, and they learn. Young human beings are curious about the
> world, and learning is what they do best. Get out of their way, and
> they teach themselves. This is the time-honored way for young primates
> to learn about the world. It is only in the last couple hundred years
> that we have tried the experiment of separating young children from
> their families, segregating them with age peers, confining them in
> desks, and pouring the industrial product called education into their
> heads.
> Leave a young child in their family and community, give them access to
> information and tools, and they engage themselves seriously in the
> business of learning what they need to know to be successful members
> of society.
> Three of my four children learned to read by osmosis. They had access
> to books and to older people who read to them and were available to
> answer questions.
> "Rig-huh-tuh, what's that word, Mama?"
> "Right. The g and the h are silent and make the i long."
> One son started reading simple words before he was 2. By the time he
> was 6, he was reading science books intended for teenagers. He also
> taught himself to read music during the same time frame, and would
> read a musical score with as much pleasure and comprehension as
> another person might read a novel.
> At the same time, his just-older sister was not reading at all. She is
> severely dyslexic. As a child, she preferred doing anything rather
> than apply herself to cracking the code of written language. When I
> realized this was an area of serious struggle for her, I tried a
> variety of approaches, including a number of manipulatives.
> One day, we were working with a manipulative where the child matches
> letters to sounds and objects. The manipulative used pegs on the back
> of the letters to match the answer to the problem. My daughter soon
> deduced that it was far easier to disassemble the puzzle, turn over
> the letter tiles, and match the peg patterns. This was genius in its
> way, but did not help with the task of learning to read.
> She did learn to read (the learning specialists say that her level of
> remediation and confidence is amazing for a person with her level of
> disability) and currently has a 3.94 college GPA. Learning to read and
> write was not delightful or interesting for her. It took many years of
> daily effort before she finally cracked the code at 11. She enjoys
> reading now, but it takes her a long time to read anything.
> In the 99% of areas where interest-initiated works for children, it
> does work extraordinarily well. I don't think that it will turn
> ordinary children into geniuses, but it does allow them to learn in
> their own time and in the way that works best for them.
> There is an idea in the unschooling community that children will
> eventually learn to read if left to their own devices. For a lot of
> children, that is correct, and there's no point in rushing them to
> read before their brains are ready for it. A substantial minority of
> kids, though, can't learn to read by osmosis. Their brains don't work
> that way. If you just leave them alone and wait for them to learn to
> read, they will grow up into illiterate adults.
> Interest-initiated learning can also lead kids to focus on odd areas
> that adults don't consider useful. In most cases, I think these
> seemingly useless areas are valuable learning experiences for
> children. In some cases, though, kids can get into unhealthy ruts.
> Parents and teachers need to be aware of what's going on with the
> children and redirect their energy if it gets into unhealthy patterns.
> In sum, delight-driven learning is a great way for kids to learn, and
> tremendous fun for the entire family. It's not the end-all and be-all
> of education, though. There is a place for formal learning and adults
> still need to monitor and guide children. We are primates, not
> reptiles. We do not simply lay eggs and slither off into the sunset.
> We teach our children to become adult human beings by spending lots of
> time with them helping them learn everything they need to do to become
> successful adults.
> --
> Heather Madrone  (heather at madrone.com)
> http://www.sunsplinter.blogspot.com
> Live sweetly in bitter times.
> ----- End forwarded message -----
> --
> Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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