Wednesday, August 18, 2010

on inspiration, maturity and work

A friend sent me this post, about a mom who let her kid just quit doing math for a few months, to look at and asked me what I think. I don't know what she thinks yet, so I don't know whether we agree or not, but it was certainly thought-provoking. Here's my immediate response, though I imagine yours will be different because what you think will probably depend on your experience of trying things that are too hard for you to do, and also on your kids' experiences when they try to do things that are beyond them.  Anyway, here's my not-very-reflective reflection on the post:

That it sounds like summer vacation. :)

My other thoughts are:
-yes, you take un-intentioned breaks sometimes (hmm, let me talk about my last year . . .)
-yes, sometimes there's growth that has to happen before mastery can be achieved, but . . .
-as Picasso said, "There is such a thing as inspiration, but it must find you working." I think that's so, so true. And I think not making the kid work is a disservice to the kid. Now, adjusting the work to fit the child's level . . . i.e., maybe switching to a different program, or playing math games instead of worksheets, or some such, till the necessary maturation occurs and the child gets it? Yeah, absolutely. But I think just letting the child stop working is a bad idea. (Unless, of course, it is summer vacation.)

Mostly because I think letting myself stop working is a bad idea. And I'd hate to be less fair to my child than I am to myself.

So, yeah, I think the back-burner idea is true. At least, I find it true in myself. But I also find it true that I: 1) get the concept faster if I'm still working in the area and 2) learn other good things in the meantime if I keep working in the area. Back-burner break-throughs seem to happen best when you ignore the exact problem area itself "(I can't seeeeeeee you" <-- is the dialogue in my head at those times) but still stick really close to the area around it. Otherwise you can waste days and days and days because you're not aware and alert and present when the readiness kicks in.

Also, we can be very, very wrong about whether or not we're able to do things. I'm always amazed at how much more I can do when I make myself work versus when I think about working. Again, I think the same is true of kids. (Minus the fact that they have a much lower tolerance of frustration. That's where we need to be careful, I think. Hitting frustration is something you don't want to do very often or very long with children. I'm finding. Hence the switching it up, but keeping close to the subject.)

There. I've blathered. What do you think?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


MomCO3 said...

Disclaimer: I javen't read the other post you linked to, but...
When my oldest was SO frustrated with trying to read (and not getting very far), we paused our phonics lessons-- but never stopped reading to him. Eventually, he was ready, and became a voracious reader. So I think I might take a break from a specific math curriculum, or cahnge the time of day, or ... something... but we wouldn't stop playing math games, or using numbers, or keeping those gears turning.

Ma Torg said...

I agree with you. I think the risk of this approach is that there is no guarantee that a child will ever find a certain subject 'fun' or 'interesting'. What if that little girl still hated math 3 or 4 months later? Some kids just struggle with learning, but it doesn't mean they can't learn.

I couldn't help but read that post and think the main struggle might have been the mom. I can sympathize with that. My daughter Mary is still not into reading all that much and sometimes it is very hard for me to continue to be patient with her. But I do it because 1) She needs to learn to read 2) One day she will be thankful she has learned to read and 3) Learning is not always necessarily fun or easy. I actually think it is important for children to learn that they often have to do things they don't enjoy and do them as best as they can. Besides chores, school is one of the few ways children can learn this life skill.

Queen of Carrots said...

I don't know that the same rules apply to young children as adults here. It seems to me that so much depends on their brain development, which responds to but is not really driven by the environment.

In very young toddlers it can be quite obvious--they'll do nothing but talk, talk, talk for awhile, and then suddenly they'll get all interested in walking and their babble will drop off. Then, walking mastered, they're back to chattering again.

I think the same thing happens on a more subdued scale in older children. I see in my almost-5 and 6-year-old that they'll go through weeks of reading and reading and then they'll hardly touch a book for a while while they create some elaborate game or ride bikes, etc. Different parts have their own growth spurts and the others need to slack off during those times.

The other thing with young children is that the things they are learning are so pervasive that they are never walking away from them entirely--as in continuing to read to a child who isn't making progress in phonics. Math is also part of everyday life. As long as the stuff is available in the environment, I wouldn't worry about how much they were producing--sometimes there needs to be a great deal of informal intake before they are ready to produce again.