Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Building With Chessmen

I'm sure this picture is a metaphor for something. For a homeschooling ideal, maybe: we offer the materials and what the kids do with them is their own affair.

Whenever I see chess pieces I remember that I killed the kids' nascent interest in the game with a ridiculous excess of enthusiasm.

But this tower also evokes the primordial reasons why we homeschool. At age 4, my mom tells me, I told her that when I looked at my Montessori preschool teacher's eyes I could see that she didn't like me. My mom arranged a conference and turns out I was spot on.

What she didn't like was that I wouldn't use the materials as intended. I built with the cuisenaire rods. The horror!

And we were supposed to fold a paper into a grid of 20 little squares and then the teacher would tell us to draw simple things, a flower, the sun, a bug, and we were to fill in the boxes from left to right and from top to bottom to reinforce the pattern of reading.

Apparently I drew in whatever box I felt like. This vexed the teacher. So my mom pulled me out. (Thanks, mom!)

In the process of recording things that the kids choose to do and things I choose for them to do, I also recorded them using the available materials, sometimes as originally intended, sometimes in their own creative ways.

Intended Use

Lego houses

Intended Use

Yarn and embroidery floss.

Evelyn finished a scarf and a friendship bracelet Clem did finger knitting.

Creative Use

Greta weaved the living room. Ok, actually she festooned it with tangled yarn.

Intended Use:
Pattern blocks. Finding ways to make larger and larger triangles.

Creative Use

Building straws. You can build cubes and cubes upon cubes with these straws.

Here they are used to make what look like giant jacks tumbled together into a sculpture.
Intended Use

Sculpey clay. Turns out if you photocopy a picture or draw a picture on paper and then bake the picture pressed against the clay the ink will transfer. The face is done this way and then the accessories are added after.

Creative Use

For a rope:
Intended and Creative Use
Clem was making french toast, but she moved the pie dish with the "eyeballs" around to various backgrounds. Here they sit on a potholder.

Intended use
Clem at the sewing machine:
She cut out pieces to make a royal outfit for Greta. Remembering my resolve to facilitate I got out the sewing machine and showed her how to use it.

The royal results:

Creative Use

When she was done making her costume. Clem began sewing lined writing paper. At first she sewed words on it using the sewing machine's embroidery function, but when the thread came out she sewed all sorts of swirly patterns in the paper and held them up to the light to see the pinprick patterns.

Note: I apologize to all of you who tried to post comments only to not have them appear for a week! I had to turn on comment moderation because I was getting spam comments, and being new to it, I forgot to check for pending comments. Thank you for your persistence--I really appreciate all your comments.


AM said...

Yaay for spam comments! That means the word is getting out ... next step, Oprah!

gina said...

Love this post- it's always good to keep in mind. i love how you adknowledge how we can burn children out by being over enthusiatic in their interests. Always such a balancing act.

AM said...

Are goals/rewards acceptable? Learn to mate with Bishop and Knight and get a [whatever].

Susan said...

Research has shown that kids who are offered rewards for an activity show decreased interest and pleasure in the activity. Our piano teacher (a psych PhD) says that rewards are ok for short specific tasks that are not self-rewarding. Reward for finger exercises, but not for performing a piece. So you could...set a short, specific goal for learning to mate with bishop and knight, but not for agreeing to play a game with mommy. (Rats)

patricia said...

I loved reading this post--it's fun to see what quirky, creative endeavors kids come up with on their own.

And how lucky you were to have a mom that could recognize that what your teacher was doing was wrong! Sounds like your insights into how kids learn might be genetic.

Regarding what Bob Pixel said about commenting, I always have issues leaving comments on Blogspot blogs. The "post comment" button" never works at first. So I copy what I've written just in case. Then I hit "preview"--which never works--but somehow it allows the "post comment" button to work. I wonder if I'm the only one who does this whole little dance every time I post...

Stefani said...

Ah. What a lovely lovely post. And a good reminder, too. Instead of banging my head on the wall, I'll mentally praise their creativity and verbally reinforce only effort.

JeaneP said...

So soon to appear in type! Facilitating lets the interest run it's course and re-appear! Way long ago I resolved to keep NO for safety and Yes for facilitating (Yes, I thin that is a great idea, we'll do it tomorrow afternoon when we have enough time so we are not rushed) as it is not always the right time to actually do the request. Loved all the photos!