Sunday, October 7, 2012

Learning at the Freehold

The girl shows off her corn
There is a lot to be said about the public school system here in our corner of New Hampshire. I've been incredibly pleased with it since we moved here last October. The twins have been truly challenged, have learned a lot, and yet have not been the least alienated from their peers. This speaks to me of good differentiation and good teaching habits.

However! Just because the kids are getting a great public school education doesn't mean they don't have stuff to learn at home. There's just so much for them to learn here. We may not be teaching the staid and solid original three - readin', writin' and 'rithmatic - but almost everything we do has something to do with one of those or a plethora of other subjects of great importance.

Reading is a daily habit in our home. Every one of us reads, and we read both for pleasure and for education. The kids have some fun books (high on the list right now are Captain Underpants, the Redwall series, and Harry Potter of course) and some books that are meant to challenge their reading abilities. They're well ahead of their peers, and we believe this is because we've pretty much read to them every day since they were born.

Writing is a new thing for our munchkins, but they've taken to it with gusto. One of their favorite things lately is to get online and open up IM and chat with one of the adults. At the moment their ability to type long messages is fairly low, but it gets better with each attempt. They also create little books and glue or tape or tie them together and give them as gifts (having already learned that books are always well received). They are working on handwriting, both printing and script.

Arithmetic is a subject they practice every day, several times a day. Whether they're eyeballing the size of something, estimating the amount of milk needed for their cup, or figuring out the fractions in slicing pizza, they are always using math.

Those are just the "school" subjects, though. Our kids are always out and about. They climb trees, allowing them to commune with nature. They find nests and discover hungry, blind baby birds. They help in the garden, learning both where their food comes from, and what is and isn't edible. They enjoy baking, wood working, music and dance, and hundreds of other subjects that we provide during our daily living.

They also learn how to teach. Watching the little miss in the above video, you can see how she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. She wants everyone to understand the joy she finds in twirlie birds and maple trees. She is patient, and well spoken, and it makes me thoroughly proud.

How many opportunities do most children get to teach others? Few, if any. It's a shame, too, because numerous studies have told us that teaching is a great way to learn. If we'd just give our kids the opportunities and get out of their way, they'd soar to heights beyond our reckoning.

This is not meant to be a slam on the public school they're in, though. They are doing very well there, and have many friends. I'll admit, I'm proud that their friends tend to be the other "smart kids" in the school, but no matter who they're friends with, I'm still happy. You can see the girl in this last video dancing with her old Zumba teacher. We ran across them today, dancing in the local drugstore at the grand opening sale. She jumped right in, not the least bit self conscious that there were adults galore, all staring. She knew what to do, and did it with a zest for life that teaches me something new every single day.

What do your kids teach you?

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