~ the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time ~
~ deep, reflective thought ~
~ reflection; considerations; deliberation; musing; rumination; study ~
Observation, imitation, modelling, practice. These are all key elements of the educational process. The bookends that frame this process is contemplation, as nothing is ever really learned without deep, reflective thought.
We begin with admiration. If we first do not take a moment to stop, observe, and appreciate in wonder, we will not find ourselves asking questions. Questions open the doorway to learning. Young children are our best teachers in this regard. They drop everything when they find a bug in the garden. They crouch down and watch closely. They call over whoever is around to enjoy the wonder of their discovery. They begin to ask questions. Why does it move like that? Why is it in the garden? Where is it going? What kind of bug is it? Childlike contemplation in action.
The danger in education is to get caught up in climbing the ladder of knowledge. What is the next skill we need to develop? What is the next level in maths that we need to achieve? What is the next spelling list we need to conquer? Where do we sit on the percentiles? Are average, below average, gifted? What grade are we aiming for? If we are focussed on these things to mark our educational progress, we are concerned with the wrong things. These are not the things that create, or demonstrate, learning.
Interest. Surprise, Wonder. Admiration. We need to make sure we keep room for these things, especially as our children reach the teen years. There will be time to complete maths tests, submit essays, complete a science project, hand in a resume, or apply to uni. But there needs to be time to watch the sunset and wonder. To observe a summer storm rolling in and wonder about the clouds. Their colour and formation. Their movement, speed and direction. Wondering like this keeps questions alive. Wondering like this keeps us thinking and wanting to understand. There needs to be time to read, to record our responses to the ideas found in our reading material. To ponder. Sometimes to wrestle. To discuss. To truly contemplate.
To make time for contemplation we need to schedule space in our day. Space to read and think. Space to follow an interest. Space to have a conversation. Space to be quiet. Space for a walk. Space for an evening picnic. Space to listen.
It is these moments that allow us to absorb and take on the ideas, beliefs, plans, and purposes which guide our decisions. These moments are how we grow in understanding. These moments pave the way for action and help us prepare for choices we make daily. Those daily choices where we show the man our education has helped to form.
Learning doesn't really begin, it is with us from our moment of conception, because it is synonymous with growing. And growing is synonymous with living.
Babies begin with observation, imitation, curiosity, exploration. Sensory exploration and observation is their doorway into knowledge of their world. How things feel. What things look like. How things smell. What things taste like. As they explore and touch, their parents begin modelling the names of the things, giving their infants names for these things they sense. And then comes repetition. They say a new word over and over again. Partially for the joy of their new trick. Mostly for practice. When they learn to run, they run for the joy of their new skill. And for practice. This is learning. After words comes groups of words. Groups of words of followed by sentences. Sentences followed by stories. Lines by a crayon are followed by scribbles. Scribbles followed by marks resembling words. Then might come single letters - perhaps the first letter of your name, or the first letter of your pet, favourite food, or favourite story. Then comes words, or parts of words. Groups of words. Sentences. Stories. This is learning.
Observation, imitation, curiosity, exploration, questioning, repetition. These are the ingredients for learning and they are how we learn throughout our lives. Learning is hardwired into our bodies and souls. The trick, as our children grow, is to harness this natural method of learning and weave it into formal studies, combining what we love with what we need to know and understand.
Two ingredients are important to creating the bridge between what could be considered play learning and formal learning. A library and a garden.
Sharing stories with our children as a natural part of our daily lives paves the way for reading, writing, listening, reasoning, and creating. Stories weave knowledge of our world into life. Distinct, yet connected. Stories not only connect us with each other and grow a common culture within our family, but they open doorways into untold areas of knowledge. Stories in written form connect us with reading and writing. Stories unlock interests and ideas. Stories promote conversation.
Gardening, appreciating gardens, and simply spending time outdoors is a living gateway into maths and science. Counting, comparing, contrasting, observing, seeing and making patterns, measurements, and shapes, becoming acquainted with what forms our earth home and what shares our natural world with us are all hidden gems open to us when we spend time outdoors. Picking flowers, digging in dirt, climbing trees, rock hopping, splashing in creeks, eating outdoors, enjoying nature walks, watching birds fly, catching dandelion fuzz, shell collections, pressing leaves, picnics, are all ways to form a relationship with our living world. Interacting thoughtfully and meaningfully with nature connect us with an experience of science and maths. Nature connects us with our home. Nature unlocks wonder, interests, and ideas. Nature promotes conversation.
This is how learning begins.
Welcome to A Library and A Garden's Blog. This is a space for occasional blog posts, reflecting on the art of learning and teaching as I live a life of learning with my children and my students. Topics will include journaling through literature, nature study and gardening, resource reviews, and Q&A posts. Amongst other lovely things I like to write about. As whimsy whistles.
I hope you will enjoy reading these occasional reflections as much I enjoy writing them.