Monday, October 24, 2011

How Children Learn - Learning About Children


The proper spirit of observation of a child
p. 16  "If I looked at her closely, it was not with the eye and feelings of someone looking at a specimen through a microscope, but more in the spirit in which I looked every day that summer at the snow-covered Colorado mountains across the valley--a mixture of interest, pleasure, excitement, awe, and wonder.  I was watching, and in some small way taking part in, a miracle."


Don't help unless asked to help
p. 28  "As I have since learned very well, little children strongly dislike being given more help than they ask for.

What loving and observant mothers have always known
p. 28  "It amuses me now to read how astonished I was then to realize how intelligent small children were, how patient, skillful, and resourceful, how thoroughly capable of doing many things that experts assured us they could not do.  It is not news any more that babies are smart; sometimes it seems as if half the psychologists in the country are bending over babies' cribs and "discovering" there what loving and observant mothers have always known."

The true spirit of education - JOY
p. 34  "The spirit behind such games should be a spirit of joy, foolishness, exuberance, like the spirit behind all good games, including the game of trying to find out how the world works, which we call education."

"I'm afraid this is not what most people understand by the word "education."  They understand it as being made to go to a place called school, and there being made to learn something they don't much want to learn, under the threat that bad things will be done to them if they don't.  Needless to say, most people don't much like this game, and stop playing as soon as they can."

The Instinct of Workmanship
p. 37  "Very young children seem to have what could be called an Instinct of Workmanship.  We tend not to see it, because they are unskillful and their materials crude.  But watch the loving care with which a little child smooths off a sand cake, or pats and shapes a mud pie.  They want to make it as well as they can, not to please someone else but to satisfy themselves."

Watching people do real work
p. 66  "It makes me think how much children must have learned from watching people do real work, in the days when a child could see people doing real work.  It is not so easy to manage this now.  So much of the so-called work done in our society is not work at all, certainly not as a child could understand it; so much of the rest is done by machines.  But there are still plenty of craftsmen, of all kinds.  What a good thing it would be if a way could be found for many children to see them at their work, and to be able to ask them questions about it."

Random Useless Data? Getting answers out of the noise
p. 74  "One could say that [the child fiddling around with the cello] is having too much fun-a weak word, really-playing the cello to want to take time to figure it out.  A scientist might say that, along with his useful data, the child has collected an enormous quantity of random, useless data.  A trained scientist wants to cut all irrelevant data out of his experiment. . . But a child doesn't work that way.  He is used to getting his answers out of the noise.  He has, after all, grown up in a strange world where everything is noise, where he can only understand and make sense of a tiny part of what he experiences.  His way of attacking the cello problem is to produce the maximum amount of data possible, to do as many things as he can, to use his hands and the bow in as many ways as possible.  Then, as he goes along, he begins to notice regularities and patterns.  He begins to ask questions-that is, to make deliberate experiments.  But it is vital to note that until he has a great deal of data, he has no idea what questions to ask or what questions there are to be asked."

In the past I have believed that a child should not be allowed to touch the instrument until he can be instructed properly in the use of it.  However, I'm now very interested in watching my four-year-old mess around at the piano, trying out all the keys and pedals, figuring out the logic of the notes and keyboard.  My seven-year old is a bit more cautious, but slowly he has ventured toward the piano to try out "Three Blind Mice."  He can play the first two phrases now and he loves to play them over and over again.  It's especially easy for him because the G key has a missing ivory (from the tornado) and so he has an easy reference point for his playing.  The point is, though, that until I allowed him to just play what HE wanted to play, he stayed as far away from the piano as he could.  I hope I can undo much of the wrong I have already done to him in the past.

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