"In the Zone"

There are those little learning moments that are so crucial to capture, both for adults and children. Those times when something sparks in the mind of the learner, and they take control of their own learning. We're on Week 3, and that hasn't happened much so far - and it's mainly my fault. It's hard to break away from the traditional way of doing school - after all, most of us are products of "sit still and listen" public education. I tend to kill those little sparky moments by getting in the middle of the boy's business, telling them the better way to do it, providing more direction than what they need if they're truly going to own the project or the information.

Rich started collecting boxes to build a castle with last week. In an effort to seize the moment, I ran out and found a dozen castle books, websites, and other castle related things for him to look at - I took over, and he lost interest. It took him a couple of days to find that spark again, but today he started cutting, painting, comparing his boxes to a picture he choose from the web. My attempts to cram history, math, and reading about castles into that moment backfired. Rich is the kind of kid that wants to *do* - the learning stems from that, and very rarely precedes it. Lesson learned, Dad.


Doing Nothing

I guess what looks like goofing off or "doing nothing" to most people is what we consider some of the most important, educational "stuff." Last Friday we took off for Gulley park, with extra clothes, some glass jars, and no real agenda. This of course led to catching water spiders in the creek, rock-climbing, long conversations about river heads, the difference between fresh and stagnant water, survival instincts of insects, and Brennan making about 20 new friends on the playground. We also explored on the bicycles and ended the day with a short trip to the library.

We're really trying to create negative space in our life. You know, those white spaces between the words and paragraphs that make it easier to distinguish the print on the page, or that dramatic pause in your favorite song, just before that last, epic chorus kicks in. Negative space is breathing space, and in life, as in art, it brings everything else into sharper focus. We're all so over-booked and over-scheduled (especially kids) that there's no negative space, no time to just explore or imagine. I'm claiming Fridays with no plan as some negative space for us.

Where will yours be?


Rich started his project with some really broad questions:
1) How does the computer know what to do?
2) How does it know what pictures to send to the screen
3) How does the internet work?

People think I'm a computer geek, but I'm not. I understand software a little more deeply than some, but these questions are daunting for me.


If it was something I already knew about, I could tell him all about it. But he wouldn't care. As it is, he's spent the last three days gutting a computer, pulling out itty bitty chips, pouring through some books he got at the library to identify them, and making notes (writing!? He HATES writing!).

The whole thing belongs to him. He even asked the librarian where to find the books - his initiative, not mine or mom's. So the whole process is taking place - identifying the knowledge he needs to obtain, figuring out how to get it, then assessing and organizing it in a way that makes sense. Much better than someone telling him a bunch of stuff about computers then giving him a worksheet to fill out. And to top it off, he's asking better, more specific questions and staying interested. I'm learning lots too.