Studying an area and then making a lecture in front of an audience, is a good way to learn about a subject and making the knowledge stick in your mind. We use that as a general way of learning. The children choose a subject, then study it and then tell about it.
When we want to summarize what we have learned or a subject is hard for us to remember, we make posters. Our whole house is full of them. It is also a good way to easily look up formulas or grammar during teaching. The younger kids also benefit, they walk by and read about what they find interesting. Then we get a chance to talk with them about new areas.
At the end of the year each of our kids make a poster with the different areas they have learned about in math.
Esrum Monastery is a great place to visit and learn about the reformation in many different hands on ways. There is a game room, where you can play a game where you can choose to represent or support the church or the king. Then you play against each others teams and learn about the different influences and powers which ruled then.
It is also situated in very beautiful surroundings. There is a large playground and a medicinal garden.
Today we got to try out if we could make smoke rings with a Vortex Canon and smoke bombs. It worked! We had seen it at a Maker Space arrangement, and thought it could be so cool to try. The Vortex Canon works with air pressure. It is very simple, you pull back an elastic inside the cylinder.
As a child I really loved to play with Barbie dolls. It was an amazing universe for me. I build houses and made clothes for my dolls. Actually it was my start into learning to sew. I keept most of my dolls and their accessories until I got children of my own. When they were old enough, they were allowed to play with them.
My children has continued the fondness for Barbie and I get so happy when I see them play. When we found out that Lene Darlie Pedersen had collected more than 4000 dolls, we had to go see her amazing museum. http://barbiemuseum.dk/
The dolls shows fashion through the past 50 years and Barbies development. The owner took us through the exhibition on a personal tour, where we could ask questions and was also allowed to have a look around on our own at the end of our visit. It was truly amazing.
The owner had started out collecting porcelain dolls, but found they were too expensive. But Barbie was affordable, so she could add new dolls to her collection frequently.
What a great read. I enjoyed this book so much. Having already read “School is dead” by Everett Reimer, “Hvis Skolen Ikke Fantes”, Nils Christie and “Deschooling Society”, Ivan Illich, all books from around 1970, it was interesting to read “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto. A book published in 1992. He was just as John Holt, a school teacher, who became disillusioned with the American school system. While, John Holt only stayed a brief period of time in the school system, as a teacher, John Taylor Gatto stayed for 30 years. Mainly in the New York area. He taught both rich and poor students, but his experiences with the pupils in the school system were the same.
In 1991 John Taylor Gatto was named “New York State Teacher of the Year”. On that occasion, he gave a speech. This is where he for the first time put forward his “Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher” where he describes the function of at School Teacher. In real life. Not how we theoretically want a School Teachers function to be. But how his 30 years of experience in the system, had been.
Here we go:
- Confusion. A constant violation of natural order and sequence dismissed as quality in education.
- Class Position. You come to know your place.
- Indifference. When the bell rings, what you have learned, don’t matter anymore.
- Emotional Dependency. You have to surrender your own will to the predestinated chain of command.
- Intellectual Dependency. Good people wait for an expert to tell them what to do.
- Provisional Self-Esteem. People need to be told what they are worth.
- One Can’t hide. There are no private spaces for children, there is no private time.
He also makes a short summary of how new compulsory schooling is. In the USA it came about in the State of Massachusetts around 1850. 80% of Massachusetts population resisted, sometimes with guns, and did not surrender its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and the children marched to school under guard.
That Schools were designed to be instruments for the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce humans whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
Two institutions at present control our childrens lives: Television and Schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, nonstop abstraction. In the past our childrens lives would have been occupied by real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach you what you really want to learn.
He makes a calculus of time the Children in School must deal with: Out of 168 hours a week children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours to fashion a self. Children watch 55 hours of television a week. That leaves them 57 hours to grow up. Children attend school 30 hours a week, use 8 hours to get ready and travelling to school, 7 hours on homework – a total of 45 hours. During that time they are under constant surveillance. they have no private time or private space. That leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course, the children eat too, that takes some time – but not much, as they have lost the tradition of family dining. So we allot 3 hours a week to eating, and that leaves a child with 9 hours of private time a week.
Gatto tells what effect this has on his pupils:
- They are indifferent to the adult world. Nobody want’s to grow up.
- They have no curiosity. They cannot concentrate for very long at a time.
- They have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today.
- They become ahistorical. They have no idea about how the past has predestinated their own present.
- They are cruel to each other, lack compassion for misfortune, laugh at weakness.
- They are uneasy with intimacy. For their whole life they have hidden their inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers.
- They are materialistic, grade everything as a School teacher and copy television mentors who offer everything in the world for sale.
- They are dependent and passive.
How can we turn this around? Gatto says it is not about pouring more money into a sinking ship. We have to rethink what it is we want our children to learn and why. Gatto is a fond believer in mentors. Including all groups of the community into the community again. Not separating the population into groups of parasites and putting working people on a pedestal. He did many programs for his pupils where they committed themselves to community service. Many of those pupils came back many years later and told him how that experience had changed their lives. How it had helped them rethink goals and values.
Gatto says that it is time for a return to democracy, individuality and family.
Gatto makes a sharp distinction between Networks and Communities. He believes that todays schools are called communities, but are really networks. There is nothing wrong with networks, but if we believe they have the values of communities, we are left betrayed and lonely.
To sum up the book, it is a great critical view on our current education system. We need to review how we think and understand learning. Education does not equal learning. A good life does not equal a constant march towards achieving material goods and distinctions.