Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Learning Happens Here

It happens in so many different ways, of course, but one of the most delightful ways is when it happens spontaneously, as "just a part of life."

Here's a recent example:

Last month, I posted this YouTube video, of a dad singing his bedtime version of Pachelbel's Canon. The kids found it as funny and endearing as I did, and it prompted me to make sure they knew what the original piece was. I didn't call this "music class" or, gather them in and quiz them on anything. We just investigated.

First, we found several different versions of Pachelbel's Canon in D on YouTube, everything from professional video to high school kids in a basement. Then, we found a cd of our own and played that, too.

A couple of days later, when we were in for check-ups, I heard the canon playing over the dentist's radio. Anne-with-an-e later remarked, "Mom! Did you hear Pachelbel's Canon while you were getting your teeth cleaned?"

And, last night, while Atticus sat in the living room grading papers, he was listening to a classical music station on the radio. Something (I have no idea what the piece actually was) floated sweetly through the air while I combed Ramona's wet hair. She was reading Winter Days in the Big Woods and suddenly looked up, and said, "What is this?"

Atticus asked, "You mean this music?"

I knew what she was thinking. I'd been thinking that the piece, some sort of chamber music, reminded me of something, too. So, I asked her, "What does it sound like to you?"

She listened for a moment, and then said, "Pachelbel."

Atticus and I agreed that it had the same sweet, layered sound, but told her we didn't know the name of the piece.

When she left the room, Atticus said, "I know nature plays a part, but nurture has an awful lot to do with it."

And, it does. Living in an inquisitive atmosphere allows spontaneous learning to happen. Paying attention to details that surround us, taking time to investigate and wander down a side path, listening to what really captivates the kids, or sharing my own enthusiasm for something -- all of these things allow for spontaneous and flexible learning.

Charlotte Mason said that education is "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

I believe that. I can't say that every night sees our living room awash in atmosphere of calm culture. It doesn't.

Some nights, the kids are playing a game that is anything but cultured. Some nights I'm tired or crabby, and other nights we just laugh together with Alton Brown. But, I don't measure life or education one day at a time. I look at a bigger picture, and measure both progress and happiness on a larger scale: What kind of month did we have? What kind of winter? What kind of year? What kind of life are we having?

And we adjust accordingly.

On a practical note, if you want to bring a little more Pachelbel, or other classical music, into your life, there are myriad ways to do it:

  • Start with my favorite place: the library. Check out cds, try various composers. See what you like. Play it in the background, listen while you cook or clean. Don't force it on your children and insist they be educated by it. Let them absorb it.
  • Tune into internet radio. Lots of great, free stuff there, too
  • Wander through a classical music site such as to learn more or to subscribe to a year's worth of music, podcasts and more


michelle waters said...

Fun post - I'm off to check out the Pachebel Utube... thanks!

Jen said...

This post really spoke to me. Nuture does have a lot to do with it, and I sat back and really let that soak in. I have am still new to this homeschooling thing, and for the past two years have been only learning what doesn't work for us. I was introduced to Charlotte Mason this year, and have been soaking things in over the past few months. I have been measuring our "homeschooling success" by how much we get done in a day, what I can check off our to do list, and what is known on the quarterly test. The fun of education is zero. Yet, on the days we go to the library, my kids ask so many questions, we learn so much, or just have fun. We've been listening to "Wee sing" and I find myself and my kids humming to the tunes long after the CD has been turned off. Thank you so much for posting this.

Meredith said...

I love this Karen, my ds 9 in learning Canon D right now, it's divine and he plays it so well already, I am in awe of his talent. You have such a fun school :)

Christian said...

Thanks for your Blog ;) God Bless you

Karen E. said...

Thanks, all!

Jen, your kids are so young ... this is the time to really enjoy the fact that you can be CM or unschoolish with them, and know that they will be absorbing loads and loads.

Try writing down everything you talk about and do on one of those library days ... I'll bet you've got a week's worth of curriculum in one good book-and-talk session. :-) And, don't be discouraged ... the early days are trial-and-error for all of us!

Karen E. said...

And, p.s.
If you haven't looked into Lissa Wiley's Tidal Homeschooling list, check it out here:

The Bookworm said...

I can tell you one version of Pachlabel's Canon that doesn't work. Brass band. I played in a run through of a brass band arrangement once. We all said never again. Talk about turning a beautiful piece of music into a dirge!

Jen said...

Thanks Karen! Will do!