We are on a big learning curve here. Even though I had been teaching for 10 years, this project-based Reggio-inspired homeschooling is something I didn’t get a lot of experience in. I used to plan the units, create the activities, find the resources, book the excursions, organise the worksheets, organise the library books…I did it all. And after 10 years it is so hard to let go of it, completely let go of it.
I feel like I need to retrain myself. These notions of eduction and learning are so ingrained; what learning looks like, how you know it is happening, what is the role of the teacher, the student. What should a three-year old know, should he know how to write letters, words? What are other preschoolers learning?
Even though I read a lot about progressive child-led education; Reggio and Montessori, I still hear little voices in my head, Is he keeping up? Is this what he should be learning? You know what I’m talking about.
‘Oh, that little girl can write her name.’ ‘Oh, that little boy can write his full name’. ‘Should I be teaching Jack to write his full name?’
‘Oh that little girl can read that word.’ ‘That little boy can read that sentence!‘ ‘Jack can’t read words, should I be focussing on reading words?’
Rationally, logically, I know that we can’t and shouldn’t compare children. That we should wait until they show signs of readiness and interest, if we want to foster authentic learning. That an environment which encourages independence and exploration will nurture their souls and ignite their fire…But the voices sneak in.
I was thinking about this yesterday. We were at a flower festival. I had promised the kids a trip to a farm animal nursery but instead there was a hands-on reptile exhibition. Straight away I went into teacher mode; this is a saltwater crocodile, he eats….’ But then something made me stop. I knelt down to Jack and said, Do you have any questions you’d like to ask? Is there anything you want to know?’ What came next melted my heart…
Jack: What is this?
Keeper: It’s a kind of lizard
Jack: What kind of lizard is it?
Keeper: It’s a shingleback lizard
Jack: Yeah he’s got a shell, it’s all bumpy….and he’s got two heads?
Keeper: That’s his tail, it looks like a head so it confuses other animals who want to eat him
Jack: Yeah, this is his tail because its got no eyes
Keeper: (to me) Gese, he’s inquisitive, isn’t he?
He is inquisitive. But none of that would have happened if I had continued talking to Jack about the animals. He probably would have had a pat and then moved on.
Yep, this child-led stuff can be tricky. You can guide it gently but you never quite know where you will end up. And while he might not be able to write his full name or read words or sing the national anthem, slowly those anxious voices of mine are being drowned out by the conversations of an inquisitive 3.5 year old.