And You Know I’ve Tried A LOT of Brownies

Simple Homeschool has a post that fits Connie’s journey to culinary competence. Here.

When she began asking to cook (age nine or younger) I found it hard as:

1. she didn’t want help

2. she didn’t want recipes

3. my kitchen is MY KINGDOM!

Also she made grimace inducing food, it felt wasteful. I was negative and anxious.

I coped by nixing certain ingredients, demanding she clean up before and after and shutting the door and walking away (returning only to place dubious cake mixtures in the oven)

First her baking became edible. Then delicious. She never wrote anything down but seemed to remember which amounts and combinations went well. Then she began using recipes. Age 11 she could make a three course dinner for six. Age 12 she bakes the best brownies I have ever tasted.

 

The Surprising Upside

The benefits of learning to read early are effortlessly apparent. It’s a powerful thing to be able to edify and entertain yourself. The merits of late learning are less obvious, perhaps invisible if you are in a literacy heavy school system.

Patience is eight, she has a good grasp of how reading works but she is far from fluent. To compensate she has developed heightened focus and discernment. Sometimes she sits still with her gaze fixed on the speaker, sometimes her eyes are down as her hands fiddle in her lap. A question is asked and she springs up with a pertinent phrase plucked from the reading or a reflection on how she sees the subject in her own life. The ideas are complex, her comments mature.

I asked her how she does it. She says as she listens she picks out words she thinks there might be questions on and she tries to remember them.

By comparison my brain seems sluggish, slumped on the print, never having to stand on it’s own.

No One Has To Cry For This To Happen

Only one room in our house (the tiny toilet) has less than fifty books on the shelves, several rooms have hundreds. When I thought about teaching the children to read I didn’t have a set method in mind but I did have two convictions:

1. It must not be an ordeal. For either of us. Nothing dampens the prospective pleasure of reading more than a tear soaked Roger Red Hat.

2. It must have context. Stuff that’s connected to an experience, story or conversation is easy to recall and therefore use. Random facts are harder to absorb. The whole point of this agreed code of written language is communication. It has meaning. Getting my child to learn combinations of sounds in isolation would feel like writing vowel pairs on helium filled balloons and letting them loose to float around the Albert Hall.

C picked it all up latish, she was about 9 before she could muscle through the average sentence. It didn’t happen gradually, a switch was flicked and abruptly all made sense to her. Before that, any attempts to teach her felt like trying to communicate through plate glass. It seems to me that she just needed more data, information was constantly being unconsciously assessed and sorted, it’s patterns deduced, until one day she just knew. Now she’ll get through a 400 page book in a couple of days. Later doesn’t seem to mean less efficient, more efficient if you take into account how frustration free the path was.

This is something to do with my 12/2012ing. The switch has flipped in S’s brain and when he sees a word he knows what to do, he’s very good at connecting new up with known. P’s still groping around in a fog.

Maths Without Trying

‘The Artist’s Son, Jean, Drawing’ – Pierre August Renoir

Something about home schooling.

How we learn is fascinating. Children are especially interesting, as in the early years progress is easy to witness. How they have that ‘Helen Keller by the water pump‘ moment and grasp that everything has a name. They instinctively sort and group in a subtle way (e.g. Serena, Julie and Deborah are their names but they are also called ‘girls’ and can be grouped together despite variations in size, age and appearance) I don’t really understand how my children learned to tell cats from dogs, they didn’t need a flow chart, they just looked when I said “cat” or “dog” and absorbed.

All this maths starts so young. When C was tiny she saw three bags on the floor. She called them Mummy, Daddy and Baby, she would often ‘count’ groups of three like this. It felt significant, because if we took one away while she wasn’t looking, she would know it had gone, she would know the group had lost it’s ‘threeness’. All part of “one to one correspondence”.

I do like workbooks because they give me a feeling of blithe progress, but it’s this kind of understanding that I am always reaching for with the children. It has meaning and utility.