This blog is where we share our homeschooling journey. Our style is eclectic, employing strategies like notebooking, workboxing, and some relaxed unschooling I like to call organic or free-range learning.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teachable Moments #1

When Do I Teach ______?

Part 1 of a 3-part series on using Teachable Moments to boost a child's learning experience.

A frequent topic of discussion among homeschoolers is what they need to be teaching when. On the groups I belong to I see questions like,

*What should my kindergartener know by the end of the first year?

*Is it too soon to start teaching my child to write?

*What if my child ends a school year not knowing___(insert random item here)?

One of the amazing things I've discovered about unschooling is the ability to use "teachable moments" to address the above issues.

What's a teachable moment? The time when an individual is most likely to retain specific information. This moment varies greatly from person to person, and in the same person depending on situation. It's something I learned as an adult educator, but it applies just as much to children. And because teachable moments are different for everyone, the technique is impossible to employ across the board in a public or private school setting.

To understand teachable moments, let me first mention a few moments I have found are definitely NOT teachable moments for kids (or anyone, for that matter):

1. When they are hungry
2. When they are cranky
3. When they are in pain
4. When they are distracted by something more compelling

I don't find these the best times to teach a child, unless, of course, you are teaching them about what it's like to feel hungry, cranky, etc.

Great! you say. So does that mean any other time is teachable? Not quite. The above covers some of the WHEN for teaching, but not the WHAT. To truly discover What goes When, a parent must watch their child for easy to spot clues. These clues will answer one special question:

What I Want To Learn MOST Right Now Is ______.

Fill in the blank, and you'll have your child's teachable moments handed to you.

Let's use a typical parenting example to explain what I mean. Mom decides to teach Johnny, her pre-teen, to wash the dishes. He argues, rolls his eyes and offers groans of resistance the whole way. It becomes an unpleasant task for all.

Now, let's back up several years to Johnny as a preschooler. Every time Mom walks into the kitchen, he's begging her to let him help. One day she complies, and finds herself with a captive audience who gives dish washing lessons his full attention, then wants to wield the feather duster and broom, too!

Sure, 11-year-old Johnny may be more capable of washing dishes, but which child will internalize and retain the lesson more willingly? Thus, letting preschool Johnny learn What He Most Wanted To Learn Right Now is a prime example of using the "teachable moment." (Of course, this does not guarantee he will never roll his eyes or groan when asked to do the dishes at age 1l, just that he will be an expert at getting them done quick because he learned HOW during a willing moment.)

This same approach can be used in the homeschool setting in place of, or in addition to, calendar agendas to determine what to teach. Part 2 of this series will show how to apply teachable moments to the classroom.

Until then remember---in a homeschooling family, class is never dismissed! Keep on learning...


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