Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Keep it Simple, Natural, Honest Pt 2

Pictures from: ‘The Mouse Family ABC’ by Rosalind Sutton, published by Brimax Books, 1989. 

Keep it Simple

First of all, keeping it simple means that it’s the simple things that work the best and lay a good foundation for future learning, and for the more abstract thinking at high school level, which is when they’re really getting stuck into bookwork and cementing ideas, skills, etc.   We often assume that lots of bookwork in the infants/primary years means that they’ll be better at academic stuff and know more later on.   It isn’t necessarily true.   More is not necessarily better.   Kids who have to do too much bookwork will come to hate it and will often become confused and overwhelmed and sometimes distressed, and actually unable to learn. 

Simple things like tracing, copying, colouring, matching, counting, clapping, rhyming, jumping, dancing, chanting - all these help them to learn, practise and master concepts and skills - and these things are fun, which keeps them wanting to learn.   Lots of bookwork doesn't necessarily make better writers or readers - it just makes them tired and jaded - and it can actually make their work harder and less effective.  

When my big girls were little, we studied dinosaurs, creationism, the Flood, etc,  together, in bite-sized, simple ways – colouring in, games, videos, stories and discussions, with some worksheets – and now they still know a lot of that information, and yet it seemed so simplistic and almost ‘lazy’ because we were enjoying it and it was all quite basic and fun.   They have since added to their knowledge of those things that they learnt in enjoyable ways, and their knowledge is now more mature and well-grounded, but it was done simply back then. 

On the other hand, we spent hours and hours of bookwork trying to learn German – especially the grammar - and it just hasn’t worked.   The German language that we learnt in simple ways through games, audio work, conversation, etc has stuck – the rest of it was a monumental waste of time, effort, and money.   They could have learnt so much more if we’d done it more simply.

In mathematics, it is much better to spend years mastering the basics of the maths facts and concepts than moving quickly through them in textbooks, and stumbling all the way.  Lots of counting and sorting and matching and rote learning of facts can be done in fun, simple ways, and will cement ideas in their heads, rather than trying to work with abstract figures that are supposed to represent a certain number.  

One of the most helpful reading I've done on keeping it simple is Ruth Beechick's 'The Three R's', which covers the basics of how to teach reading, writing and arithmetic simply and effectively.   It's worth a read if you're just starting or needing to backtrack with your child and find a more effective way of learning.

Keeping it simple is not a cop out - it works.   If it all seems a bit basic, but your kids are adding to their knowledge and skills, and you're all mostly enjoying it, then you’re probably doing okay.

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