This is a paper Mom wrote in the same class as she wrote her From Dependence to Independence paper. In this paper, Mom talks about children being ready for school, and sometimes learning at different paces.
Near the end, though, Mom adds the personal notes that make these papers so great. She references her experiences on the playground as a child. She also remembers her one year at the local crippled children's school when she was about 13, as giving her her voice. She's previously written about the school as letting her down academically.
She talks about how the family got through Mom's sister-in-law's family coming from Germany, when each family didn't know the other's language.
The photo is of Mom in the 1960s, from her photo album.
Society has set down a schedule for everyone in regards to their formal education. When a child has reached five years old, he/she attends kindergarten, at six he/she starts first grade, and so on. Education is set down in an orderly manner - or is it. Is a child always ready to learn at these scheduled times? Some kids are not. Does this mean that they are slow? Or does it mean that they are the proverbial "late bloomer." How do you get a child ready; and how do you keep them interested in school.
There are times when you have to stop trying so hard. The individual has to find out for himself. Not all education after all, comes from formal learning in schools. Sometimes the best lessons can come from "the old school of hard knocks." The lessons of "life" can prepare the child for the formal schooling later. Learning cannot be scheduled, nor is it derived from books. More and more older students are returning to school to either complete earlier attempts at college, or to enhance the individual's personal goals.
When the child is younger, of course, they will need guidance. They will not be able to choose for themselves, so it is up to the parents and teachers to keep them interested and ready. Small children need to be enthusiastic about learning, at whatever level they are at. To quote John Ciardi, a noted American teacher and writer, "No one gets to be a human unaided. There is not time enough in a single lifetime to invent for oneself everything one needs to know in order to be a civilized human."
This philosophy is good but I don't feel that we need to know it all. What we need is enough knowledge to get along in this world of ours. Perhaps we can even help change the thoughts of one or two other people along the way; than I would say we accomplished much.
The first education we received, of course, came from our family. This family unity and protection will say much for the child on how her individual personality is set. If she is to be aggressive, it will show here. If she is to be shy, it will show here. Special talents can be brought out here also. Setting play blocks in a certain fashion can be a form of art work or construction work. It will by no means seal her fate in any way, but all of these little creative talents need to be rewarded and encouraged.
By making this early learning a fun experience, you can teach the child that exploring new subjects will be fun. As the child begins preschool or kindergarten, this fun way of learning continues. It takes a lot of patience to work with a room full of 5-year-olds. Here, however, the real personality will come out. Whether it is social time, when the kids interact with each other, or rest time when perhaps one child will not rest. The particularly shy child needs guidance here. Maybe to the point that you discuss with the parents as to whether he is ready for this world yet. Again, not everyone will learn at the same pace. This means nothing except that they are an individual.
As the child grows up through the Grammar school, we need to watch carefully for the slower child. This child cannot get lost in the system. These are the most important years to keep the child interested in the basics of math, reading and writing. There needs to be some extra help here if needed. Once these children are lost in these lower grades it is very difficult to get them back to the proper level at the higher grades. It takes all the fun out of school if the child cannot keep up.
There are programs in a lot of schools around the country that bring in some of our senior citizens to aid with the extra help needed for these children. This works very well and benefits both the seniors and the children. The children in the lower grades see these seniors as perhaps the grandparents the children may or may not have or see very often in this transient world we live in. There is much to be learned from these seniors other than reading or writing. Their experiences can keep the child interested in learning.
As with the slower child, we must also think of the fast learner or the advanced child. These children soak up everything you give them. It becomes a challenge to keep these children excited about school. One way could be to use these children as tutors of sorts with the other children. Let a good reader help a slower reader. The teacher will have to monitor this at first to make sure they are benefiting each other. This responsibility with both parties could help them. Extra projects for the advanced learner in a subject that is of interest to them. I do not believe in most cases that a child should be advanced to another grade. They could take subjects with that grade, but should for the most part stay with their own class.
A child on the playground, playing a game, or just watching. An experienced teacher can tell a lot from this scene. These are the social skills that we learn, when we are ready to learn them. We all know that children can be cruel and this especially can happen on the playground. I got to a point in school that I hated recess, and especially noon hour. I was glad to get into the upper grades when we didn't have any. I was so shy it was difficult to play in large groups. I was fine in the small group setting. In organized games we must see to it that everyone gets to play. Nothing is more hurtful than not to be chosen for each side. The self confidence is gone. There are times though, when the children need to be left on their own to get involved. Here is where your real leaders show up. This does not mean that the "wall flowers" will not be leaders in the future. Sometimes when children grow and are outside of this usual group of kids they begin to emerge and bloom. I believe that I was like that. Painfully shy in grade school, I went away to school one year and learned that I had a voice and sometimes it was worth talking, and people listened.
We cannot force people to think the way that you think. History taught us that from the famous "Great experiment" with the Indians with the William Pratt schools. He thought he could make the Indians into white men. It is fine to teach the Indian how to read and write and all about the white man and how they learn, but you cannot stamp out their basic personality or heritage in the process. People must be free to think for themselves. This kind of brainwashing is never permissible, although it has been tried throughout history.
No we cannot force learning on anyone but we can add to their knowledge. Sometimes there can be an exchange of knowledge. When I was a little girl, my sister-in-law, who came from Germany when she married my brother, decided to bring her sister and family here as well. Their escape from behind the "Iron Curtain" was the topic of many dinner table conversations. They had two daughters, one of which was my age. They spoke no English and of course I spoke no German. There were many afternoons spent with little more than sign language spoken. I feel I learned a lot that summer, and I'm sure that they did. Children left to their own resources can make it fine.
Much of this learning that I have spoken of is not necessarily learned in the formal school setting. Mr. Robert Pirsig, a noted teacher and writer, said that classes do not stop when you leave the school. He says the "real university" has no specific location, but is a state of mind, a continuing body of reason itself. Along with this reason, I feel, is the common sense that has to be in all of us if we are to survive. I have known a lot of well-educated people, with many degrees, but lack a basic concept of common sense. Their thought process is locked in a book somewhere and they can't bring it out. Then there are many people that I have known, who, like my mother, had very little formal education but could relay all kinds of common sense. If I had my choice, I would take the common sense over the book learning. When you have common sense, you will achieve the goals of a "real university."
Connie, May 14, 1994