Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Learning Through Play

I'm amazed at how much learning takes place through imaginative free play.  I have evolved tremendously as a home school parent in 6 years and that's a very good thing. My kids have learned more and most importantly, retained more as a result.   I've learned that my most important jobs are to keep media use way down, provide a houseful of books on varied topics, have some interesting resources on hand (the best ones are always free!), ask thought provoking questions and LISTEN.  When I allow the kids to go to town on an idea of theirs and stay out the way (but within earshot), SO much learning takes place.  Learning that is permanently etched into the brain.  So much more meaningful than worksheets and assignments!  The key for me is to make myself available for help when questions come up.  Very often, I know that what they are trying to do won't work, but I keep my mouth closed about it and let them try.  When it doesn't work, they discover WHY and are (in their words) "back to square one" to do it again differently.  Learning is so much more experiential that way and their brains get an excellent workout in creative thinking/problem solving.  They don't look to me for direction as to what to do next - they brainstorm a few solutions, pick the best one and try it.  I love that they are free thinkers and creative problem solvers!  If you haven't read or listened to any of Sir Ken Robinson's work, I encourage you to do so. He is an idol of sorts to me in the field of education...

We have had a collection of boxes kicking around recently and since the kids have discovered the pile, the imaginative power and value of those boxes has skyrocketed!  They have been in use for many different purposes of late - most notably, an apartment, a fort and a reading nook.  Yesterday, the kids had an idea to make a restaurant on the front deck with them.  Excellent!  Math, reading and writing all in one game :)  Menu and order writing, math to add up the bill and make change plus plenty of logic in terms of sequencing/timing events.    Paige wondered how to make a sink out of cardboard for the restaurant.  A very animated discussion ensued about the permeability of various materials.  Ideas flew.  Methods were tried, altered and retried.  Failures continued.  A lot of tape, effort and determination were used and ultimately, a usable sink was created.  Success!!  Experiments continued and questions arose about how long it would hold water.  The decision to hold that experiment over the bathtub was very wise, indeed...  The answer?  Long enough to do one load of "restaurant" dishes but not long enough to do a second load...

At this age, kids are entrenched in imaginative play.   It's wonderful to afford them the chance to be kids and get deeply involved in one of their games.  Often times, the questions that come up are so insightful and intelligent.  MANY times, I don't know the answer and off we go to look it up either in an encyclopedia, in a book or on the computer.  That's why it's important for me to be nearby so I can capture those learning moments and steer them to an appropriate resource.  When we look topics up "in the heat of the moment", the information is relevant and timely, having valuable purpose in that moment, which so powerfully seals it into their brains.  True RETENTION is perfectly demonstrated when the kids recall (on their own) and utilize or implement previously learned information in context, appropriately and spontaneously.  True confirmation of retention!  Those are the sweet rewards of Home Education :) 

Version one of the sink....

Taking orders from a customer (lucky me!).

The functioning sink (version 4, I believe).

All in all, creative learning involving math, science, logic, problem solving, writing and all for free!  


  1. I love the sink, that is just so cute. I admire homeschooling mums, I wish that I had homeschooled from day one with my kids, I truly believe they would have ended up with a better "all round" education than the schools have provided.

  2. Yeah, it's pretty amazing isn't it, lol. I am always astounded at how long they can stick with something to make it work :) longer than I, I'm afraid! As far as public education - there are some FANTASTIC teachers out there - and our older boys have had some of them :) It's just really hard with huge classes and so many special needs students - it's a lot to juggle. It's a very hard job and I have the highest level of respect for teachers!