So, my second son who’s almost eight is figuring out arithmetic and it’s pretty fantastic. Here’s how it looks:
Earlier in 2017, this little boy couldn’t count to twenty without getting lost in the teens, but within the last couple of months he has become really fascinated with numbers.
I noticed that he began to ask me things like, “mom, is three plus four seven?”, and I would answer him, yes. Then his “figuring” got a little more complicated, and he’d ask things like, “mom, is three fours twelve?” and I’d answer, yes.
These days he has fun telling me things like, “mom, in seventeen minutes it will be 4:55, and then it will be time for my turn on the computer.” He’s totally figured out digital clocks and the concept of telling time by minutes and hours, with the sixty minute hours and the twenty four hour days. He loves calculating time.
When we are driving someplace he will ask how long until we get there and if I say five minutes he’ll say “mom, that’s 300 seconds!”. Yep, it is! You should see the look of pride on his face then.
I wonder why he decided it was time to figure out numbers and arithmetic? Sometimes I wish I could see inside their brains and know the whole process behind all these developments, but it’s a Mystery.
One thing that many people in our schooled culture don’t consider is that the learning process of children is indeed a Mystery even if a child attends school. In school theory, all kids learn all the same things at the same times, but we know that doesn’t really happen. Kids in school still only learn things when they’re ready, and they get to the same places by different routes. Nobody has ever been able to force knowledge into a mind that wasn’t ready to do it anyway.
The main difference between Teaching a child and allowing them to learn on their own is that the Teaching can create a lot of useless anxiety and stress. Not many kids do their best living and learning when they’re under pressure to perform certain tasks, or measure up to certain goals. By teaching kids that a high level of stress is a normal part of life, we are unhealthily warping their view of the world and of themselves.
Why do we put this pressure on our kids? It’s just so much unnecessary stress for them and for us adults. In my family, the proof is in the pudding: they learn numbers and arithmetic without ever being coerced. A child’s discovery of the world is such a beautiful thing. Our “schoolish” Teaching ploughs right over that beauty like heavy machinery tearing up a unique ecosystem. Whenever possible, we should let children do things as they were meant to do them! That’s my motto.