This is a very personal post. From a different side of the learning fence. It’s about the challenge I face as a parent at the beginning of the new school year.
I have two kids, 8 and 10, who are very happy in their schools. They have great classmates and so far – OK it’s only day four! – getting ready for school in the morning is a happy and positive affair.
They go to local Spanish schools following a traditional curriculum taught in a pretty traditional fashion. Rote learning, memorization, accuracy and constant testing is at the basis of the teaching philosophy. That’s not the full picture of course. Individual teachers and their individual approaches bring a breath of fresh air, they look for creativity where they can, but the kids still end up filling pages and pages of activity books and worksheets, ticking the correct answers, counting the mistakes , being graded once a month.
This is their day to day learning reality. And I find myself having to support it. Even on day three my 8 year old daughter already had to memorise (verbatim) a punctuation rule. And I helped her. Of course we discussed the how and the why and the where – the bigger picture as it were – but in the end she insisted on being tested, on repeating the rule word for word. She was only happy when she could parrot it comfortably and confidently.
Don’t get me wrong – I think memorization and rules have a role to play in learning – I’m just worried that the over-riding philosophy, the message about learning, that’s coming across is one of pleasing the tester, ticking the boxes, getting things right, which brings me to my question and personal challenge (a repeated, yearly, constant challenge but one that changes and shifts all the time as the kids get older, as the “learning” load increases):
How can parents help bridge the gap between traditional schooling and creative learning?
I guess it’s mainly an attitude, a mindset, letting them explore and learn on their own terms, in their own time, offer opportunities, be there to discuss questions … but that takes time, and once they’ve finished the worksheets and the memorizing all they really want to do is take it easy, which is fair enough, right? But still … I wonder … am I doing enough?
I wonder if any of you are facing the same situation? I guess I’m not really looking for easy solutions, just airing a quandary …
But it does lead me to another question, related to another aspect of learning/teaching and my day-to-day life and that’s constantly present in my mind at the moment:
How can published materials help bridge the gap between a static syllabus and the dynamic process of language learning?
Now that’s a biggie … and one I’m going to be coming back to, but not in this post!