If I reach way back to my college days and early childhood education classes, I remember something about how children learn. This particular thing I remember well from my classes (goodness knows I put most of the rest of it out of my head). It is the concept of schemas. The way I understand it, each new "topic" that children learn something about is a little schema. Think of it as a cloud or bubble. When my older daughter was a baby, she would play with a ball. When we played ball, I told her, "roll Mama the ball." Thereby giving a name to the toy. As she grew and got more experience with balls, she added to her schema. Every sphere or circle she saw was a ball. Daddy's basketball was one kind of ball. The round part on the end of the lollipop was another kind of ball. Even when we read books, she would point to the o's and say "Ball!" When she called Cheerios balls, I corrected her and said, "That's a circle." Now a new little cloud branched off from the original one entitled "circles." She quickly added to this schema new knowledge of circles.
This explanation of how children learn is easy enough to understand, even if you never sat through hours of courses on the subject, right? (And no matter how poorly I explained it!) Every new piece of information is filed away in the appropriate little cloud or bubble in the brain. Some schemas are larger than others. Most little children know a lot about "McDonald's" and not so much about "chemistry." They will add new schemas as they grow and develop.
I was reminded about this lesson from college earlier in the week as I was watching how Sweetheart has learned this summer. Now that I am no longer dependent on her school to pour knowledge into her head during the school year, I feel a new responsibility. A few weeks ago she became very interested in Indians (Native Americans). She already had learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and owned a toy one. She wanted a headband like an Indian would wear. She asked for her hair to be put into braids. Obviously, she already has some knowledge of Native Americans filed away in her brain. Then, her cousin brought over her American Girl collection Kaya doll. Then, we checked out the first book about Kaya from the library. Then, she wanted to watch her Pocahontas movie again. Then it was over. Just when I thought Indians would be with us for quite a while, her interest was over. I guess she filed away all the new information she wanted on that subject for now.
Yesterday my mom and I took the girls to the museum to see the Frogs! exhibit. When we got home, she asked if we could look up the rain forest on the internet. Specifically, she wanted to look at monkeys (?). There was a portion of the exhibit where she got to swing across some monkey bars just like the monkeys in the rain forest do. That's the part that caught her interest. Who knew?
So, what does all this mean for homeschooling? Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my thoughts on this. (Don't want to make this post too long!)