Saturday, March 28, 2009

Joyful Learning

I wrote the thoughts below last September in response to E, who wrote this on Living Math forum:
>I'll have to admit, making learning fun seems like such a foreign concept,
>because school was never fun for me. Learning and fun never went hand in hand.

That shook me. I love learning new things. Sometimes it makes me bite my nails, sometimes I think I'm never gonna get it, but there's almost always a moment where my angst becomes so worth it, where I'm just glowing inside from the joy of a new skill or a new, broader understanding.

When I was in school, I was often bored, but I knew it was school that was boring, not learning. Luckily, the academic subjects came easily for me. (Except penmanship. I got a D in that in 4th grade, and I still struggle with it sometimes.) But school made me think I couldn't sing. I love to sing, so I work at it. Sometimes I do great, and sometimes not so great. I'm a slow learner with music, and many physical things. So I like lots of practice. When I was in a Unitarian church choir, I wanted to practice each song about twice as many times as what seemed reasonable to the others there. Being a slow learner shouldn't be a problem... But in school it is.

I teach math at a community college, and I give my students a "Math students bill of rights." One right is the right to learn at your own pace. I tell them that schools make that impossible, because we have to work as a group. (I do answer all homework questions, and modify each class for the group I'm working with. But if you're the one person who's slower than the group, it isn't your pace...) I've always been torn between my love of teaching, and my understanding that the best learning comes from within, and may not need a teacher.

Waldorf teachers are supposed to be learning new things all the time themselves; I assume that's so that they are in touch with both the struggles and the joys that come with learning. Maybe picking something you want to learn yourself, E, and working on it, would be a good way to find some joy in learning, so you can pass that along to your son.

One response to your post had said 'math is a different story'. I think I disagree. Math is different for homeschooling parents who are comfortable winging it with every other subject. But for the child math is just like all the rest, they learn the most if they approach it at just the right moment for them. My close friend who homeschooled did everything except math in unschooler style, trusting her daughter. But she was scared of math, so she followed a school curriculum for that, and it was the one thing her daughter didn't like. The daughter did go on to learn calculus at the community college, because she planned to be a veterinarian, but she never found as much joy in it as she could have if she hadn’t been pushed...

OK bloggers, I want to start a Joyful Math Movement, with Lockheart's Lament ( as one of our founding documents. Who wants to join?

1 comment:

  1. [Kate suggested that I post regularly, so that anyone reading my posts will know I'm taking this blog seriously. ;> So I'm pulling in some things I've written before. It'll be fun to collect them all together here.]


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