I spent the day at home with Leo yesterday, and I was struck by how natural, flowing and easy his learning is, and how completely unlike school our day to day life is. It’s something that’s very hard to get across to people when they make a polite or casual enquiry, clearly imagining late night hours planning lessons or mornings standing over children while they complete workbooks.
Yesterday, I had no plan (I had planned to go to the beach, but we had to wait in for the gas man instead). I made very few suggestions. Every now and then I wondered if I ‘should’ be ‘doing something educational’, but then decided to let him get on with the variety of educational things he was already doing for himself. These included:
- Looking at magnets – he was playing with a magnetic darts game we got with a magazine last week. I got some more magnets out and he discovered that these were stronger than the magnets in the darts because they could maintain their attraction through two of his fingers, rather than the one the darts could manage. I also found a bag of pennies and twopences and we discovered that some were attracted to the magnets and some were not (those made before about 1991).
- Counting in twos – he decided to gather up all the 2p pieces and hide them somewhere. He wanted to keep them until he was grown up, and then he could fascinate his friends by showing them what coins were like when he was a boy. He put them in a bag and spent quite a while thinking about how best to protect them from theft. As an aside, he counted the amount of money – 2, 4, 6, 8… up to about 38.
- Thinking about density – he put some of his 2ps in a glass of water, then added washing up liquid to see if they would float. Over lunch, he asked if tiny people would float in his drink, and we talked about how it was the stuff things were made of that determined whether they would float, not the size of the things.
- More experiments – he left the coins in the soapy water for a while to see if it would make them shiny. When it didn’t, I suggested we try vinegar. This did make some difference. We were also inspired by The Big Bang on Discovery Kids to make a swirling ‘tornado in a jar’ – this didn’t work very well, but he was pleased with it anyway.
- Talking about Fibonacci numbers – I measured an egg to see if it’s length and width were in the golden ratio (they weren’t), and in trying to explain what this was, I talked to him about Fibonacci numbers. He seemed to absolutely understand this, and went and found a pine cone in his room, which we looked at to see an example of how the numbers occur in nature.
- Making a rocket – he finally decided to distract any would be thief by launching a rocket near the hiding place of his money. The rocket was made of a cardboard tube and some string, and was launched by pulling the string up quickly from above the launch site.
- Making posters – he forgot that the rocket launch was an anti theft measure, and decided to launch the rocket at a time when everyone would be in. We talked about this, and he made a poster announcing the launch and then photocopied it several times, explaining to me that this was much easier than drawing the same picture over and over again.
- Thinking about animals – we watched the Croc Files on Discovery Kids, which was looking at large snakes like pythons. While they were explaining how the snake swallowed large animals like goats, Leo asked “How does the snake digest the teeth of the animal?”. Later on, he went and fetched his box of plastic animals and arranged all the ones with babies in a row. He is very interested in baby animals at the moment, as an extension from his interest in eggs.
- Digging up and replanting bulbs – first of all this was another exercise in gathering eggs – he dug loads of little bulbs out of an old planter in the garden and washed them in a dish of water. Later, after an inspired suggestion from his grandmother, he replanted them all in the shape of the letters of his name.
- Learning about telling the time - I am sure that he is learning how to tell the time, by asking the time and comparing the answer with what he can see on the clock. He is very interested in the number 60, and often asks what is half of 60 or two sets of 60. I have tried to teach him to tell the time and it was hopeless, but I expect he will just suddenly be able to do it in a few weeks or months.
I think there was more, but I’ve run out of time to write this now. I am astonished at how much education can happen in a day of really doing nothing much, and overwhelmingly relieved that he is not having to spend these precious, important days in a classroom.