“Grandma, you are just like my mom!”
We are snuggled in against the cold night air, having a sleep over.
“Well, I am your mom’s Mom.”
“Yeah,” she says hugging me tighter, “she’s your kid!”
At five, Sloane likes to explore connections, turning things over, understanding things from different angles. The next day, she finds a bag of marbles and lines them up by colour, comparing greens to blues. I suggest she groups them by 10’s, which she enthusiastically does, discovering there are six groups and four left over. Then I teach her how to count by 10 and her eyes light up with new understanding.
Another granddaughter, now six, is learning to read, patiently sounding out the letter combinations to reveal a new word. She attacks reading as one would a puzzle, decoding the mystery. She is also fascinated by nature, particularly bugs, and has no fear of handling even the slimiest of creatures. Researching information about her findings is a developing skill.
At seventeen months, my third granddaughter is learning to talk. She wants me to carry her about, pronouncing the word for each object she points to, watching my mouth and attempting to imitate the sound. She studies the actions of the older girls and tries to repeat what they are doing.
Children are by nature curious. Their minds are sponges, absorbing information and processing it. It is easy to see in the young and so delightful. Spending time with my grandchildren reminds me that although they are each very different, their love of learning is innate, which evokes a question in my educator’s mind: How do children lose this instinct?
As teachers we are schooled in differentiation: an appreciation for diverse learning styles; and we are encouraged to apply this knowledge in terms of our delivery and assessment, and yet, children still struggle to learn. The emphasis for years, has been on promoting self-esteem in our students, by ensuring success for each student, a trend that is proving to be less than successful.
Resilience was the newest buzz word when I left teaching: educating our children to learn from their mistakes, and develop the character skills necessary for success.
I had the opportunity in my youth to experience a variety of learning environments, from the one-room school-house where I started out, to the open classrooms of the sixties and freestyle learning, to text-book driven learning. Personally, I struggled with the structure of standard school practices: I found textbooks boring and unimaginative, detested worksheets, and felt antsy when confined by a desk for too long.
I suppose this is why, as a teacher, I kept switching things up for my students – rearranging desks, offering different approaches to lessons and giving them options for demonstrating learning. I wanted my students to reconnect with their curiosity.
The five-year-old informed me recently that a winged unicorn is called an Alicorn, a term I had never heard before. She then went on to recite other ‘fun facts’ that I did not know.
“You never stop learning, Grandma,” she exclaimed. “Even my dad is still learning.”
Her dad is a neuroscientist. I love this attitude.
I am no longer involved in the education system, and my interest now lies with how my granddaughter’s educations will unfold.
I just pray the school system will be able to keep their thirst for knowledge alive. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and the children of today have adapted, but is our education system keeping up?
Perhaps too much onus is put on the classroom. Maybe the answer lies with family. More likely, a child’s continued enthusiasm results from a combination of both educational programming and home support.
For my part, I will continue to look for opportunities to help the minds of those within my circle of influence thrive.