Living with Makers: Reflection 3
As of late, I have been consumed with reading and writing in order to publish papers, complete my qualifying exams, and to prepare for future projects ahead. As I work, my children are making around me – lately making music. Both of them love the piano – one composes it, while the other plays the original compositions. It’s interesting to watch them work together. Our youngest daughter can read the notes, while our oldest daughter learns to play more by sound. So while they work together to make music, one is helping the other - complimenting their strengths, while improving upon their weaknesses. And sometimes, I even participate in the fun and play the piano with them. When that happens, well — we’ll sit together for hours finding songs on YouTube to learn how to play or sing. Isn’t this how learning should happen – in a context saturated with your interests, resources, and support? The effort put into the learning is rigorous – but not noticeable, if you are learning something of interest, it’s more enjoyable – making one forget that they are even learning something new.
Dewey (1913) would add to this argument that it would be a mistake not to pay closer attention to the “activities in which the child is already engaged” or to assume that their interests are so “trivial or so irrelevant that they have no significance for education” (p. 34). He posits if education (schools/teachers) would tend to the interest of the child, then the child would be more engaged and learn for the pure enjoyment of learning.
I agree with Dewey – I am fortunate to have two little girls at home – my children – to raise, to nurture, and to watch grow as they learn about the world around them. The girls learn some great ”surface knowledge” at school – but when they are out of school, they learn so much more from their experiences – learning that may not be as ‘scientifically’ measured as some would argue learning must show. But in my experience as their mother, I know they are soaking up the world around them – through their engagement with their environment, their activities, and their interests. I think schooling compliments some of what they experience outside those walls, but I would venture to say that schooling is limited in that children must have the resources and access to experiences to allow their schooled knowledge to compliment anything.
I should mention that Dewey didn’t believe that every experience was an educative experience:
Dewey was careful in his writings to make clear what kinds of experiences were most valuable and useful. Some experiences are merely passive affairs, pleasant or painful but not educative. An educative experience, according to Dewey, is an experience in which we make a connection between what we do to things and what happens to them or us in consequence; the value of an experience lies in the perception of relationships or continuities among events. (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/John_Dewey.aspx)
So here’s to more interest-driven experiences (educative or non-educative) as I believe you need to experience the non-educative experiences to fuel your interests…..here’s to “trivial” pursuits to learn more about the unknown that children may encounter through play, with their friends and family, and outside the confines of objective-based learning. Here’s to hoping children make the connection between their experiences outside of school with the objectives-based knowledge they are mandated to learn at school.
PS. What might be learned from these practices at home in the schooling environment? How might the school compliment this joint interest without imposing mandates or objectives to such experiences? Should schools carry forward the shared experiences at home? How might we better network home and school experiences – with the objective being a richer learning experience rather than the objective being an expected outcome? What is the point of knowledge, if it is not valued in the child’s day-to-day life experiences?