Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Value of Learning

Every week, I read half of a ValueTale to my fourth grade class.  (Maybe next year, I'll try Plutarch.)

Each ValueTale tells the story of a real person, focusing on a value held by that person.  For example, Harriet Tubman is paired with helping.

These books were published in the 1970s, and I loved them as a child.  I've been able to get quite a few of the ValueTales on Amazon for only a penny.  They're in okay condition, not marked up, but the binding is poor and they all end up needing to be glued back together.

This week, we started The Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie

As I was reading, one fact stuck with me: Marie Curie learned to read at the age of four.

This got me to thinking about how I teach my almost-three-year-old to read, how my mother taught me to read before I entered public school, and about Charlotte Mason's belief that children should not receive formal instruction until age six.

I wonder what Mason would say about how Curie learned to read.  Curie was not given formal lessons.  Her sister Bronya, who was only 7, taught her.  This teaching and learning was part of their play, and Curie wanted to learn.

I do teach my almost-three-year-old how to read, but instruction is not formal.  (Sometimes I write words in bathtub crayon and we do lessons while she cooks pots of bubble soup or swims in the deep blue sea.)

Some Mason bloggers strongly oppose teaching preschoolers subjects like reading, math, and music.  Others do a sort of home preschool.  All seem to agree that children should be read picture books, though Mason disagreed with that idea.

In Volume 5 (page 216), Mason wrote:
Away with books, and 'reading to'--for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets." 

(The word "twaddle" was NOT invented by Mason.  Twaddle originated in the 16th century, is a blend of twittle and tattle, and means trivial, feeble, silly, or tedious talk or writing.)

I agree that preschoolers should not be made to "meet standards," and that play should be their learning.  But I can't imagine not actively (and playfully) teaching my child.

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