Open thread: Friday + Saturday

Published by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 01:45 PM

Welcome to this week’s open thread! Running the thread over Friday and Saturday seemed to work well last week and gave some people who hadn’t had the opportunity before the chance to participate. So we’re trying it again this week. Thank you for sharing, and have a great weekend!

In the final analysis, a decision to explore the Reggio ideas about early childhood education is based on values; namely, the value placed on children developing capacities for agency, collaboration, dialogue, taking multiple perspectives, learning how to construct rich understandings of the world, and learning how to communicate their understandings to others.We Are All Explorers

45 comments

Comment by Jen R. (aaron-n... on January 9, 2009 at 02:25 PM

What is the study club? Who is it for?

Comment by Sarah on January 9, 2009 at 03:19 PM

I'm spending my weekend doing some reading on Reggio. We took the plunge on homeschooling our youngest this week and I need to do more on creating an environment that will enrich her learning and exploration. We've had a great first week, but I know that I have much to do in setting the stage for happy learning here in our home. Going places and seeing things is great, but sometimes we just need to be here as well.

I'm going to look at Lori's reference library, but does anyone have books or other resources that really worked for them? Especially in making a transition from formal school to home, which we are doing.

Oh, and we started an ongoing project involving jelly beans. Math and candy - what could be better?

Comment by Adrienne on January 9, 2009 at 03:29 PM

It seems like I'm never around on Saturdays, so I'm please to see the two-day open thread. I always try to poke back through the archives on Sunday. :) We're just starting out, with two daughters, 4.5yo and 2.5yo, and trying to figure out what we're doing. I've really appreciated being able to read the discussions here and the peak into other people's methods. At this stage, we're working to establish a daily rhythm, to incorporate some specific activities into each day. I'd like to have some time devoted to working on projects--we'll just dive in, I think. I'll talk with S (the 4yo) to see what she thinks. She'll been really interested in police 'offeners' and dinosaurs, and we're building a house right now and visiting the job site a few times a week so there's lots to think about there. The trick will be to find ways of working that will encourage her to do drawing, but not discourage her, since she doesn't do much representational drawing right now.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 03:57 PM

hi jen, the study group is for anyone who is interested in a Reggio-inspired, project-based curriculum. we’ll be reading some book excerpts, doing some exercises with our kids, and talking things out as a cohort. we’ll have a private forum for discussions.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 03:59 PM

sarah, i know you’re throwing your question out to the group, but i think the best place to start is probably “bringing reggio home” (meaning home to America, unfortunately, and not home-home ;^).

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 04:03 PM

adrienne, i would definitely give her a clipboard loaded with plain paper and a pencil and have her start doing observational drawings. three- and four-year-olds who may not do representational free drawing can and will still do amazing observational drawings.

have you read this yet?

helping pre-readers research:

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/10/15/helping-pre-readers-research.html

Comment by Queen of Carrots on January 9, 2009 at 05:00 PM

Let's see if I can boil these down to questions . . .

I don't know if it's me, or them, but I'm having a hard time getting us down to one "project." For instance they seemed interested in African animals a while ago, and we still have books around that they will ask to read and discuss that, they'll role play with plastic animals, etc. But then they got all into shopping and are constructing and playing supermarket for hours in the basement and I've started giving them stuff to help with that. And then they seem intrigued by a new book on penguins, and they're loving watching the birds at our new bird feeder, and I want to get started on the garden soon, and and and . . . :-)

I'm a person who tends to bounce around and never finish things because I'm interested in so many new things and Oh! Shiny New Thing! And I'm worried about what effect this is going to have on them. So, to boil it down to a question: How do you know when to declare one project done and move on from it (realizing that they may well continue to be interested in the topic)? How do you know when you've spread yourself over too many different things?

The other question is, if you have a child that obsesses over doing things "right" and therefore prefers things like coloring books, drawing guides, copying you directly or just having you work with the materials for them--how do you help them break free from that? This is not taught, it's innate--she was like this at 2 and I certainly have never deliberately encouraged it.

Comment by Dawn on January 9, 2009 at 06:27 PM

Lori, Thanks for the link - helping pre-readers reasearch. Great ideas.

We are at the end of our first week without school and I am so exciting to see all of the things we have done already. I have a notebook and I keep writing down the ideas she is coming up with and things leftover from the day that we did not complete.
We never seem to be able to finish all we set out to do in one day. Each morning we have a "meeting" over breakfast and list the things she wants to do - and things I need to get done - on our white board. Good to keep the flow going- often we come up with things that are not on the list but the list helps us to see what we still want to do and carry over to the next day.

I am so thankful that I spent so much time over the holiday using the ideas I got here to get the house organized for projects. Esp. the recycle bin. She is building like mad. "More cardboard and tape PLEASE!"
Thanks again for all of your ideas!
I would love to be a part of the study group!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 07:47 PM

Q.o.C., *such* a good question.

One thing I like about how project work is developing for you — it’s a clear indication that kids do have a lot of interests, if you are paying attention. :^) You have tons of great stuff to choose from!

Re: getting scattered .. think of it this way. Studying *any* of these topics would be great. If you keep restarting with new things, though, you’ll only get so far into it .. you’ll only reach a certain depth, if you see what I’m saying.

The whole point of learning how to support project work as a parent or teacher is to help the children *extend the work*. You want to gently encourage them to stick with something *longer*. This is part of your role.

A classroom teacher with 20 students can’t possible support everyone’s interests .. there might be 20+ projects going on! So she chooses something that has strong interest for a handful of students and trusts that the intense interest of those children will pull in the others. (And it does.)

Now, does this mean you say “You can’t be interested in that! You can’t learn about that right now! Get back to your project and make something!” No! ;^) You simply allow the children to have that interest, but you keep *feeding* the project. Rather than run out and gather library books and artifacts for every single interest that bubbles (and you’ll notice these interests so much more once you are really focusing on them), you try to stick with one thing *longer* and encourage the kids to return to it .. so they can build that deep understanding by layering many different experiences on top of one another.

Now, how do you know when you’re truly done with one topic and ready to move on to another? It isn’t necessarily when the kids’ interests fades. Over the length of a project, their work will naturally wax and wane — that is natural. But if you’ve been keeping track of their questions, their ideas, their plans, and your own ideas (for, perhaps, places to visit, etc.), then you should have something to fall back on when things slow down or wobble — so you can give them a light shove and see if they’ll keep rolling for awhile.

Since the most important thing you are doing is encouraging *deep* work (for breastfeeding moms, I use the metaphor of getting that rich hind milk! ;^) you simply keep feeding the project until you are sure the kids are truly finished — and for me, that usually means that they have gotten to the point of being experts and can confidently teach someone else what they know.

Since you are just starting, try not to be too hard on yourself, and feel your way. Whenever *possible*, try to extend the work. If they do a drawing, can they do a painting? Sculpt? Construct? Have you done field work? Did they have any questions that went unanswered? But if you feel completely stuck or uninspired, don’t be afraid to move on to another topic and start again. As I try to reinforce again and again, this is a *learned* process, it is a skill you can develop over time. Just do your best! :^)

I hope that helps … let me know if you want to talk more about it!

Re: “doing things ‘right’”, I would encourage you to avoid coloring books and black-line masters altogether, and treat drawing the same way you would reading — something you expect them to do, something you convey that — just like reading — everyone gets better at with practice. Sit down and sketch with plain pencil and paper ten minutes a day. Start with the drawing lessons here on this site, or start with something *really* small — sketch observationally from something in the house, let them choose whatever they want, have them pick just one tiny part of that thing and draw it … then, they can maybe add the thing right next to it. I am talking really small here — like the grommet on your tennis shoe that the shoelace comes through. ;^) Try to be really mild about it and say “just try” … it really *is* just a skill, like reading, that is vastly improved with regular practice. And draw together, as a family! If they criticize their own work (perfectionists do), just reiterate that the more they draw, the better they’ll be at it. Try to make it casual, relaxed, fun, with no expectations. And let me know how it goes!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 07:51 PM

Dawn, you said

“We never seem to be able to finish all we set out to do in one day.”

That makes me really happy. :^) Obviously, you have a lot happening!

Re: keeping the flow going, with your morning meeting you are doing exactly what I recommend — talking over the plans for the day before starting, then at the end of the work period, discussing what was done and plans for the next day. This really helps keep things moving forward, especially if you are keeping notes so you can remind them of things they said they wanted to do.

Thank you so much; I love hearing about your progress!

And sign up for the study group! You are going to have wonderful stories to share with the group. :^)

Comment by Angel on January 9, 2009 at 08:20 PM

I've got a practical question about paint and painting. Say my guys 5 and under are making buildings out of cardboard and want to paint them. How much paint/how many different colors would you put out for them? My 3 yos tend to just want to put the paint via brush into the water to turn the water different colors ending in muddy black or brown, and/or to paint with water alone, if I put water out for anything other than watercolors. Then, say, if I put out a number of different complimentary shades, they will want black -- something that doesn't mix well with what they've got. But, as I said, they don't use water properly, so if I put out a color out of the spectrum of harmonious colors, everything will end up looking like mud. Which would be an end in itself if what they were interested in was mixing colors, but in some instances they really do have an end in sight, and do not want their entire creation to be an icky brown.

This leads me to another practical question: do you have any particular brands/varieities of tempera paint to recommend? I think the paint I am using may be part of our problem, because it just doesn't seem to mix nicely. It's also kind of old.

Comment by Christie on January 9, 2009 at 08:54 PM

Yikes, I picked up my notebook to record some thoughts about my role being to "feed" the projects, and I discovered I'd put the my notebook down for the whole of December! We had some exciting events at the beginning of December and then the holidays. Now is a good time to start back to my dedication to cultivating projects.

Last weekend I went on a yoga retreat to start the new year with some good positive thinking. One idea that came out of that work was that what often happens when we try new ideas or way or thinking is that we immediately judge that what we are doing doesn't look like what we envision the final product to be. The writer we were examining brought out a tomato plant metaphor. What we want is a tomato plant with a hundred ripe tomatoes on it, so we plant the seed and water it and when it comes up, we say, "that's not a tomato plant," and we step on it and start all over. For these first 6 months of the year I am planning to work on letting that tomato plant grow despite the fact that it doesn't really look like a tomato plant yet.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 09:07 PM

hi angel :^)

your three-year-old is making the infamous “preschool brown”. ;^) preschoolers love to mix colors! the key to getting really great preschool paintings is knowing how to distract them so you can snatch their paper away and give them a new one. lol

it would be great if you could back up and do some art lessons on mixing colors. try having them paint a color wheel with the primary colors then mixing the primaries to make the secondary colors. let them just spend time with some big paper mixing and mixing colors, trying adding white and black to each color, etc.

if they have a chance to experiment as much as they like, they can work purposefully when it comes time to make a painting or construction. all kids (and adults) need that messing-around time up front, so they can reach confidently for what they need when the time comes.

for painting cardboard and tape, acrylics work best. they stain clothes, so wear a really comprehensive smock and protect the floor! (or pick out an old outfit for painting ;^)

tempera, unfortunately, just flakes off when it dries and makes a big mess.

re: brands, i think any good school-quality brand is fine .. dick blick school quality, say. but honestly, i always used to buy whatever was on sale at the art supply or department store. we went through a lot of paint! these days, with just the two boys, our supplies last a lot longer. :^)

Comment by Adrienne on January 9, 2009 at 10:01 PM

Regarding QoC's point about having lots of interests: I really enjoyed reading Barbara Sher's book _Refuse to Choose_ a few years ago. In it, she discusses how people who have too many interests to settle on one project/career/major ("Scanners") have particular strengths and can manage their lives to incorporate (and anticipate) frequent changes. She specifically stated that "Scanners" enjoy the learning process itself, rather than some remote end process is the true goal. It might be worth looking at--it really helped me look at myself differently and have a different attitude toward my lack of stick-to-it-iveness and frequent dropped projects.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 11:26 PM

adrienne, that sounds like a really interesting book. that would be my husband to a tee, and probably me as well. :^) he is an education addict and has several degrees, and he had to become self-employed to finally get a boss who appreciated his intense need to always be learning something new. :^)

you know, i went through a period of time when i punished myself for not sticking to certain things, then i realized that when i’ve mastered something, it’s no longer interesting to me. so i cut myself some slack and just redefined myself in a more positive way. :^P it sounds like that’s what this book did for you. :^)

Comment by Leisa on January 10, 2009 at 12:38 AM

Angel-
As far as the paint questions go- tempera is great for "raw" cardboard- but if it is like a printed cereal box- I would suggest acrylic. Acrylic is more flexible- it can almost be rubbery.

When my preschool students ask to paint a project- I try to sit down with them and discuss their plan. Sometimes I might ask them if they have a picture (say if they made a tropical fish) to work from. If not, I might ask what 2 colors they want to start with. Then- let those colors dry- they can always go back with more... but dry paints don't mix with new... so that helps.

Also, I always give them one brush per color- no brush washing during the process- only when they are done. And I try to put each color in it's own plastic butter cup or whatever rather than on a palette-- discourages preschool brown:)

ok- one last thing- you can also vary their brush sizes. If you give them a small detail brush... they will be more inclined to make detailed marks. Fatter brushes encourage coverage, etc.

I hope this helps!

Comment by Dawn on January 10, 2009 at 12:59 AM

Adrienne thanks for the book tip. This sounds like me! My husband is a start to finish kinda guy - with two girls in the house (one 5-years, one 35-years) that like to jump around from project to project - he goes crazy! Now after 13 years it is a source of humor about our differences but this books sounds like it would be good for both of us to read! Thanks!

Comment by jen on January 10, 2009 at 02:37 AM

Lori, Is the Study Group something that has an end at some point? I know we're not ready for it right now, but this time next year, I so hope to be ready for just that sort of dialog! I'm just wondering if it is something that will have another "entry point."

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:27 AM

leisa, thank you!! awesome tips.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:30 AM

jen, no. the study group is like the mafia. or fight club. once you’re in, you can’t get back out.

:^D)

just kidding. it should last about six weeks. and if it goes well, i’ll probably do it again if i can find the time! if it doesn’t go well .. we shall never mention it again.

and extra credit to you for saying “entry point”. ;^)

Comment by jen on January 10, 2009 at 03:44 AM

oooo - Project learning AND the mafia! This blog really is more than a homeschooling mama could hope for!

Thanks for the answer, Lori!

Leisa, I say thanks for your ideas too - I already encourage a painting plan when it's appropriate, but I hadn't thought of two colors at a time!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:46 AM

someday, jen, i will need a favor...

Comment by Elise on January 10, 2009 at 06:38 AM

I'm finally around for some open-thread time!

My guy is 2 1/2 , so we're definitely still in the materials exploration phase in a lot of what we do in any given day. The 'preschool brown' makes me laugh :) One material that we use that helps to a certain extent are Caran D'ache water soluble crayons. I realized one day that I was meanly hoarding them for my self - when I shared them with Sam it was the PERFECT material for him right now. They are soft enough to make lots of fabulous, bright marks, and he can use water and paintbrush to change the effect. We still get some brown, but balanced with other colors...

Comment by Frances on January 10, 2009 at 09:27 AM

Play vs. Self-discipline and hard work

My son is 4.5yrs old and loves to play all the time. He is currently enrolled in a Montessori preschool. It is much more academic than I had expected: worksheets to learn everything (reading, addition.) He is not disciplined enough to want to do these worksheets consistently. Although I realize that doing all these worksheets may not be the best thing for him right now, this experience does expose that he is extremely interested in playing and not so much in disciplined learning like reading and addition.

Next year he will be in Kindergarten and it is likely we won't continue in this Montessori school. However, I am concerned about his ability to concentrate on "learning." He concentrates fine when he is building Legos or drawing cars. Even if I were to homeschool him in a project-based way, he will likely (based on what I have seen) not want to "settle" down and learn but jump and play around all day.

Should we teach him now to discipline himself to learn (there's a time to learn and a time to play) or would that destroy/diminish his capacity for creativity and imagination? (He is tremendously imaginative and creative now.) To be a successful learner, he needs self-discipline and hard work. And 4.5yrs. old is not too early to learn those good values?

Comments?

Comment by Dawn on January 10, 2009 at 12:10 PM

"...learning how to construct rich understandings of the world, and learning how to communicate their understandings to others."
I went back to read this again...
I was thinking that kids do have such "rich understandings" it is the communitcation part that can be so frustrating for them!

I have been trying to make a concious effort to slow down and listen - and stop my very bad habit of trying to finish the thought for her... so many times I was WRONG - good thing I have a strong willed first born that really wants to get her thoughts across - in spite of mom's interruptions... Mom learning lots too!

Comment by Sam on January 10, 2009 at 01:36 PM

Thankyou to Queen of Carrots for asking the question I couldn't get out of my head :-) From Lori's answer, I see much clearer how to start and what I need to do to encourage that deep learning.
I'm *still* trying to catchup on all the previous posts here. I'll get there, someday.

Comment by Arwen on January 10, 2009 at 01:41 PM

Lori, I have mostly been lurking on your blog and enjoying all te great information about homeschooling and Reggio. I have nominated you for an award on my blog, "Walk Beside Me":

http://sporschool.blogspot.com/2009/01/kreativ-blogger.html

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 02:54 PM

elisa, i love hearing about art materials we haven’t tried -- thank you! i’m sure some of the mothers of preschool-age children will appreciate this, too. ;^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:14 PM

frances, it’s not developmentally appropriate for a four-year-old to be doing worksheets. some four-year-olds will take to it because that is their particular temperament and learning style, but even then, that is *not* the way four-year-olds should be spending their time. four-year-olds should be playing and learning through play!

he demonstrates that he is capable of sustained attention and focus when he is working on something meaningful (e.g., legos).

“Even if I were to homeschool him in a project-based way, he will likely (based on what I have seen) not want to "settle" down and learn but jump and play around all day.”

this is one reason why project-based learning is fantastic for all children but possibly especially boys. if you pick up a few books about raising boys and/or boys in school, you’ll soon see that school isn’t made for a typical boy who wants to be moving and building and learning actively all the time. but project-based learning is. and homeschooling is, for that matter. a homeschooled boy doesn’t have to be ordered to sit at a small, uncomfortable desk and do math for a solid hour in dead silence. a homeschooled boy can talk loudly while he plays with math manipulatives, work his math problems while sprawled across the floor or standing up or in a treehouse.

project-based learning means engaging enthusiastically with your whole body and your whole mind with your topic; it works for *all* children because they can interact with it as themselves, without being required to be something different from what they are.

i have two sons, and i ran a private school for seven years that was filled with boisterous, loud, physical boys. it makes me angry that the description of a “bad student” becomes synonymous with a typical young boy. schools force children to act in a way that is the antithesis of what it is to be a child -- locked up inside, sitting still at a desk, and then punishes and medicates the ones who can’t adapt. argh!

(and of course i’m not railing at you, frances! just the system. ;^)

“Should we teach him now to discipline himself to learn (there's a time to learn and a time to play) or would that destroy/diminish his capacity for creativity and imagination? (He is tremendously imaginative and creative now.) To be a successful learner, he needs self-discipline and hard work. And 4.5yrs. old is not too early to learn those good values?”

should a four-year-old be disciplined to do work that doesn’t interest him in a fashion that bores him and makes him physically uncomfortable? no. should a four-year-old be allowed to pursue work that is meaningful to *him* so he can learn by doing how to set his own goals and achieve them? yes!

he is four years old, he is imaginative and creative, he applies himself and concentrates when he is working on something that is meaningful to him -- he has every ingredient needed for success. the question now is, what lessons will he be taught?

project-based learning teaches him that his ideas are important, that learning is for *him* and belongs to *him*, that you are there to support him as he masters the skills and tools of learning so that he can use those skills and tools to do whatever it is his heart desires. to me, that is the point of education.

“there’s a time to learn and a time to play” — but that presumes that learning and play are two separate categories, and for a four-year-old, they are the same.

frances, i would recommend you look at these posts:

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/12/11/the-value-of-work.html

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/12/16/the-importance-of-meaningful-work.html

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/10/30/the-workfun-conundrum.html

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:16 PM

thank you, arwen! :^D)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 03:41 PM

dawn, it sounds like you are doing a great job. :^)

and to me, “rich understandings” means allowing children to stick with one thing for a long time .. as long as they like .. layering knowledge upon knowedge until they have a deep understanding. children really do *want* to work hard on something that matters to them. the kind of constant skimming that often happens with young children -- apple orchard! pumpkins! field trip! movie! new theme every week! science experiment! -- doesn’t allow them the chance to do that slow, meaningful learning that leads to real understanding.

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 10, 2009 at 04:23 PM

Oh Frances, your post just made my heart hurt. I'll post as someone who just pulled my 6 year old from school to homeschool. We did it because worksheets *aren't* learning. They're busywork that is intended to train children to sit still and complete a task. Learning comes from doing and discussing and exploring and yes, playing. Not just for a 4 year old, but for a 6 year old or an 8 year old or even a 15 year old. I'm nearly 40 and I still learn by experiencing. I can read a book on how to write code for a procedure that I need in a database, but it won't make any sense until I do it and run it and tweak it and run it again and repeat until it works and I understand it.

Our family's experience with our 3 kids has been that the wrong environment will train the love of learning right out of children. It's replaced by a desire to please and to do enough to "achieve" according to expectations. They begin to look for fun and play outside of school, and cease to find it in school. This isn't always true, but it usually is for children who aren't all jazzed up by cranking out worksheets and book reports. Which is most of them.

I thought long and hard about what kind of life I want my children to lead, and how their work will be a part of their life. I want them to find work that they love and that has meaning, not work that means sitting quietly at a desk all day filling out worksheets because that won't be fulfilling for them. I fully believe that a more meaningful learning environment shows children that they can engage in meaningful work - whatever it may be.

We're just embarking on our project-based learning journey, so I'll let you know what we discover along the way.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 05:24 PM

beautifully said, sarah.

it isn’t all schools, and some children — because they are wired that way — are perfectly happy in a typical school environment. but when children are struggling, it seems that everyone from parents to educators to society at large says “the children need to adapt — they must adapt!” rather than thinking “are we meeting the needs of the children? is this what’s best for them? are we achieving our highest goals with these children?” children are found at fault every day for not being successful — and happy on top of it! — in an environment that is antithetical to what children need to succeed and be happy. as parents, we have to advocate for our children and demand that they get what they need to be happy, to learn, to not only be successful but *feel* successful.

Comment by Queen of Carrots on January 10, 2009 at 06:31 PM

Thank you, Lori, that was very helpful. Sorting through the different projects now, I can see that:
We may be almost done with African animals, but I'd like to try a few more things before we end it. I'm not fully satisfied with how much they've been engaged, but we've all learned from it.
If I look at what we can do with field work, the obvious choice is birds, since we can do a lot of field work from our dining room window and back yard. (Having baby twins makes getting further out well nigh impossible.) Penguins can be part of that, without sending us off on a bunny trail to the Antarctic.
The garden will be a great project, but we might as well wait a few months until we're really out doing it.

One thing holding us back is that they're not that comfortable working with many materials, so I need to make more time for them to play around with things. We got clay and more paints for Christmas. (BTW, on the preschool mud topic, my sister got them little paint pots with coordinating lids and brushes so each color can go in its own pot with its own matching brush. We'll see how that works. ;-) ) We tried starting observational drawing this week, and nobody cried, so I'll count it as good.

I'll have to look into that book--I think I've heard of it, but haven't read it.

Comment by Aimee on January 10, 2009 at 08:29 PM

For Frances, (posting as a former preschool teacher and one of the reasons why I homeschool now),
I just wanted to add that building with legos is preschool math, counting, sorting, balancing, sets of 2s, 3s, 4s, (the number of pegs in a lego), etc, and there is room to explore and experiment. Worksheets have one answer, with no experimenting or wondering involved. And reading aloud to a 4 year old is still the best early reading learning activity. Especially books that capture his imagination or passions.

Wanted to add about painting and paints,
I have stood over child and taken paper before all brown and given new paper, especialy when working on presents. Good to know others do this do! Right now for 16month old, he gets one color at a time and 41/2 year old gets a small pallet with primary and white and small brushes, so she can mix all her own colors. Mostly this works well, but sometimes when she paints they mix on the paper in ways she doesn't want, but she is reluctant to stop and let the paint dry and then go back with other colors. This is one of those places where I feel I am "on the edge," as Lori says, of taking over, having my own idea of success, versus, letting her learn it by trail and error. Sometimes I ask if she needs anything, like my advice or ideas or is she happy with how things are going. Other times, I can't stop myself and tell her what I would do. In our family we like to say, "we are all still learning!"

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 08:51 PM

aimee, thank you -- nicely said. our preschool students (when i owned a school) did their math within their project -- measuring, counting, identifying patterns, calculating, etc. -- all while immersed in work they had chosen and were completely fascinated with. all learning, yet approached with the freedom and fun of play.

re: taking paper away and replacing with new -- especially for presents! -- you are not alone! ;^)

re: being on the edge, i think a reggio teacher (they are in general more forthright about teaching skills directly than american teachers) would simply say “if you let those colors dry first, then they won’t run together.” i like to take a long while to explore how the paints work - similar to this:

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/4/16/art-lesson-watercolor-techniques.html

so learning about the material becomes a thing in itself and children can use what they learn when they are working purposefully.

it sounds like you are doing a great job of facilitating but not taking over! and as i always say, you only know where the edge is when you cross it once in awhile. ;^) there are always going to be times when a child is frustrated and perhaps needs a bit of advice. i think if you offer what you would do and then let her do what she will (take your advice or leave it), that’s the most you can do! :^)

Comment by Dawn on January 10, 2009 at 09:19 PM

Thanks Lori! I had not thought of the "skimming" in school that way. Now that I think about it that was one of the things that drove Fionna crazy... never really getting into stuff. She would come home with "assignments" unfinished all the time... frustrated!

As for the painting discussion:
I have tried taking the paper away from 2-year-old but he will have none of that! Wants to keep that paper until HE is finished. Still working on asking more often if he is ready for a new paper. Painting yesterday he gave up his paper before it became of muddy mess... Ya!

Sister (5-years-old) is just getting to the point were she is cleaning her brush really well between colors and she is coming up with some really colorful paintings. I have given up "instructing" her much...just little comments here and there like Lori suggested. The other day she was excited to see that once one color dried she could paint over it without the paint mixing up. Her own discovery!.... again! She has mentioned this to me more than once like it was a new discovery...

I used to try and paint with Fionna when we first started painting but she is so influenced by what others are doing (in a bad way sometimes) that I stopped painting and started doing other art stuff - like drawing - while they paint. She would get so frustrated if she could not make her painting look like mine... if I do pick up a brush now I just focus on mixing colors and doing more abstact painting... What do you think about this approach?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 10, 2009 at 09:46 PM

dawn, re: skimming, i was talking recently with a friend who just graduated from college and we were talking sadly about how many really interesting things come up in university classes that you don’t get to dig into .. because you have an onslaught of reading and papers due, so no time to really devote to anything, even when it really interests you! argh.

lol about your 2yo -- well, you will have to deal with preschool brown awhile longer. ;^) better give him some colored pencils or pastels once in awhile for variety. ;^)

wonderful re: your 5yo making her own discovery about the paint .. so wonderful that she *can* discover things on her own and not always have the letdown of someone else telling her the answer, right? i remember my son explaining how he had sorted out there were two kinds of numbers .. after a very long explanation i realized he was describing even and odd numbers, in his very own way. he was so intent on making me understand -- thank goodness i didn’t blurt out “oh, that’s called even and odd…” and ruin his moment!

re: not painting with f., i understand, if she was concentrating far too much on your work rather than her own, and only comparing .. it may be that when she becomes more confident about what she is doing and her plans, she may stop focusing so much on you and you can try again. in the meantime, i think your approach makes perfect sense!

Comment by Dawn on January 10, 2009 at 10:30 PM

Thanks Lori! I remember that about college too! I only changed my major five times!! Finally just had to settle on something and reserach the rest later... when I had more time... Ha!!

Comment by Amy on January 10, 2009 at 10:32 PM

I am in love with Leisa'a suggestions for painting with the small crowd. One of those AHA moments.

Comment by Frances on January 11, 2009 at 09:36 AM

Thanks, Lori, for your thoughtful response and your recommended posts on work. I look forward to reading them; their headings look like they will be very useful and will give me additional insight.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 11, 2009 at 09:52 PM

thank you, frances :^)

Comment by Alison on January 12, 2009 at 02:35 PM

""Scanners" enjoy the learning process itself, rather than some remote end process is the true goal."

That would be me too. It does come in handy when your kids have questions or when you want something to write about for your blog! It's so nice to realize that I'm not an aberration :-)

Comment by Alice on January 14, 2009 at 02:47 PM

"one must look at the motivation behind the creation of the school system.

Home education was once the norm... "

I get conflicting opinions from teachers and parents about why school is necessary/good for our children. Dawn is right - homeschooling was once the norm.

The Italian constitution states this (my translation);

"It is a parent's duty to maintain, instruct and educate their children....

In the case of a parent being incapable, the law provides that they are absolved from their duty."

Interesting, no?

Alice

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 14, 2009 at 03:52 PM

alice, that *is* interesting! and exactly how i think it should be stated. whether we send our children to school or teach them at home, we *are* responsible for their education. i cannot imagine being told that i wasn’t *allowed* to homeschool or that i had to have a degree in education to do so.

i also think it’s interesting that on the one hand they say that school is the best way to educate children, but on the other hand they say that we, the product of their public schooling, are not equipped to teach a five-year-old the basics. mmm .. what now?

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