Search & Win

Summer School

Sher Bear and Big Dad before they discovered the snake in the boat.
I received an email today from one of the many online homeschool groups that I participate in.  A mom was asking what other moms do in the summer to prevent the inevitable loss of learning over summer break.  She explained that before summer her kids would know their multiplication tables, and by the start of the school year, they would had forgotten them.

Of course, I know what she is talking about.  Having been in public school myself, and having done "school at home" for the first few years of our homeschooling adventure - I know all about the vacuum that is summer break.  It seemingly sucks all of the knowledge right out of kid's brains.  Why is that?

Jor Man goes out with Big Dad.
Well, now that we have been unschooling, I can tell you we no longer experience this.  Summer is just like any other time of our year - only warmer, and with more kids around.  I have found that if we leave something alone for a while (say Campster's reading), when we go back to it, she hasn't forgotten - she's made leaps.  She's more developmentally ready.  She's been processing what was already integrated into her learning.

It begs the question:  What is learning?  If we "learn" something, only to forget it a few months (weeks, days, hours?) later, did we ever really LEARN it in the first place?

Campster and Big Dad rowing out.
John Holt writes about this concept in "How Children Fail".  He defines two different things he sees happening in the classroom:  Learning and Producing.  Learning happens when kids are engaged and interested in the subject - when they want to learn - when it is driven by their own curiosity and delight.  Producing is something kids do to cope with the expectations of others.  It has nothing to do with real learning.  It may mean guessing at the answer.  It probably means picking up clues from the teacher or from other kids.  It may even mean choosing to answer incorrectly - failing as a coping strategy.  If you haven't read the book yet - and you are actually reading this blog - may I entice you to read it?  You'll thank me.

So, going back to the chid who learns their multiplication tables but forgets them over the summer.  I'm going to suggest that they never learned them in the first place.  They produced them.  And then it was summer and they didn't have to produce, so they forgot.  Learning is like riding a bicycle.  You don't forget how to do something you've learned, just because you haven't done it in a while.  You've incorporated it into who you are, and how you see the world.  It is part of you.

I want my kids to learn.  I have very little use for producing.

In the same email, I read this description of summer learning.  Lovely.

Enjoy your summer.

Wish you were here!

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