I have been sitting on this post to finish up for several months. As B and I were talking about education, he said, “I can read the book at home!” and then he went on to tell me about how he had some professors who merely regurgitated the readings and others who lit a fire in class and sent them home to read. I think B sums up what I have been pondering and experiencing lately. Let me explain.
We belong to a small co-op which operates on principles of Leadership Education. We believe in Inspire not Require and Time not Content. I have been pondering these principles a lot lately. Add to that, I have been taking a course on How to Mentor from Oliver DeMille recently. In the first lesson he speaks a lot on the importance of time in small groups or with the mentor is to be changed NOT to receive information. Through a culmination of events, I must say, I surprise myself by agreeing 100%. There was a time when I wouldn’t have agreed with that- after all, class was the time to learn something! Now, I believe class time is the opportunity, especially in the Love of Learning and early Scholar phases to get a fire lit and send them home for more learning (this is NOT otherwise known as homework!)
Some people really struggle with this- if they are not being fed content, how will they learn what they need to learn? I believe that through experience and lighting a fire of love for a topic the child will then have a motivation to go read more on it. For example, I just finished teaching a science class. It was hands on and I would classify it as more of a lab class than a lecture class. Indeed I only spent maybe 5-10 minutes or so talking to the kids as a group. In the time I was talking, I was asking for LOTS of input, showing small demonstrations, and giving the instructions for their experiences for the day. Even with my middle school class, it was NOT the time to lecture on the formula for acceleration or demonstrate how to calculate the force needed to move an object. My class was the opportunity to give the children experiences to teach them HOW Newton’s laws work, WHAT inertia is, WHAT thermal energy is and how it works in the world, etc. I looked for small opportunities throughout class to ask WHY? and get the children to ponder and come up with answers as to WHY something happened. My methods were accomplishing my goals. After a class on Newton’s 3 laws, one of the girls was reported to have gone home and spend time researching who Newton was, what his laws meant, and more. Other children related things they learned in my class to classes they took the next term. Still others asked me to teach more since they had learned so much and loved doing it.
Another example, Tiger and Butterfly are in a history class. When one thinks history class one usually thinks teacher at the front imparting the facts, dates, and other information. Instead, the children have been given a motivational system. They all started class sitting on the floor as “slaves” and through work outside of class, they can earn the privilege to sit on a cushion, sit in a chair, be given a glass of water with their chair, receive a scepter…. etc until they earn the privilege of being pharaoh. Most children will not attain the rank of pharaoh as it requires a huge amount of outside class work, but all are capable of it! During class, the mentors present an activity. This might be presented with a bit of background information as well as instructions for the activity. Also during class, the children present the things they have discovered or read about during the week. Each presentation earns a point on their journey towards pharaoh. I am not concerned with them not filling in the maps and being told all the details of a civilization because through the motivational system as well as the inspiration that comes from exposure without much information, they are coming home excited to explore more. They will get the other details reading at home.
Indeed, as B experienced in science labs at the university, class was not the time for the teacher to regurgitate the readings, as B said, “I can read the book at home.” Class is the time to give the students what can’t be done at home on their own or what might be more difficult to do on their own.