Friday, June 24, 2005

Our Routines Change with our Growth

You may be only one person in the world
but you may be the world to one person.

Routines have changed in our home in the past three months. I still class us as learning naturally but because of the older children’s interest in learning how to do multiplication of larger numbers, I found a few resources which we are still working with. I mentioned them in the previous issue. One was Bill Handley’s Teach your Children tables and the other was Don Tolman’s “Develop Your Mental Muscles” and “Think Fast”.

With the children’s willingness, here’s what we’re doing three/four days a week. We start as early as the children are ready and that’s usually around 8.00 am with Music playing. They alternate which instrument they will play, either piano or violin. Each of them is working at their own pace and I help them with learning a new tune or I just be an audience. My role is determined by their request.

Sometimes they’re reluctant to get started too! A firm but gentle push from me is sometimes required. Once they get going they enjoy themselves. If it really looks like the energy is just not there I let things go. Many times it’s happened , for example, that the middle child has thought a song he’s chosen is too difficult to learn and so he was reluctant to continue. Provided I stay with him and help him over the hurdles, he persists and completes the task with a wonderful sense of pleasure. I can hear it in his voice and see it in his whole body posture.

As each of them completes their music playing they move to the table where we do some play with numbers. The study of multiplication has progressed to other areas, especially the study of number patterns. These lessons are sometimes only twenty minutes long— just as long as it takes to cover the topic. Sometimes we’re there for a couple of hours! It all depends on the level of interest.

The Tolman books are inspiring and easy to follow. We’ve been learning ways to develop our memory. The children have been enjoying being able to recall the order of a pack of cards. They met with instant success on this one. I think I’ll always remember the look of dismay on their faces when they hear themselves rattle off the order of the cards. When we return our focus to these exercises, we’ll be learning more memory skills. Like anything though, success doesn’t just come in a fruit that you peel and consume. It all takes focus, is fun and simple, but requires persistence if you want to get to the goal.

Back to reflecting on our number lessons together… I think the greatest joy from working together has been the fun of counting out loud. We count in twos, in fours, in eights—noticing that eight is double four, is double two. And we count in threes and sixes and nines. Then there’s counting in fives and tens and nines. Once you get going you’ll see how much discussion is generated from the excitement of discovering patterns. And those of you who have done this sort of thing either formally or informally will know just how much I can’t put into words.

Still, none of these sessions is as popular as just letting the children do their own thing. I believe these sorts of discoveries would still be made through the child’s meanderings through life, but I have been too impatient to wait for them…. I wanted to see myself leading the children through the pleasure of numbers. Especially in their younger years, I’ve often noticed the children contemplating numbers and they love to share their discoveries with me.

The only constant is change! I believe it! I began writing this column 6 weeks ago, describing the new routine that our family had fallen into… It’s changed again. The music playing is still in effect—especially since we’ve tuned and repaired the piano, but no-one is keen to be doing any regular bookwork under my direction. They’re still doing puzzles, reading, playing with numbers and much more besides—but I’m not the driving force behind any of their activities. We’re still reading together every day—novels, comics, reference books, magazines etc. There are cubbies to be made deep in the forest, piglets to chase, dolls clothes to sew, doll’s furniture to build, trees to climb and trees to water.

Spring is in the air. There’s lots of cow manure to collect and spread around the fruit trees and vegies. Here’s to mulberry stained faces!

© Grace Chapman.