Friday, April 11, 2008

"I want to plant seeds, but can we do it without learning?"

"...Because learning is boring."

"Sure!" I said, but I'm still wondering where she got that idea from. We don't actually sit down and do any structured *learning* as such, so maybe it's something she's heard on the TV and assumes must be true. Or maybe I made the mistake of once saying: "See? Learning is fun!" which, admittedly, does give it the kiss of death somewhat, doesn't it? (*Rolls eyes @ self..*)

So. To plant seeds without doing any learning. Nothing educational at all. Sure. No problem.

"Ok. So, which shall we plant."

"Flowers. These." She picks up a packet of cornflower seeds.

"Oh, beautiful. Which pots shall we put them in?"

"The window boxes, so I can see them from my PC."

"Good idea. But how big do they grow? Oh - 75cm. That's very tall. You wouldn't see much else out of your window if we planted those there."

"How do you know they grow so tall?"

"It says so on the packet." I pointed. She agreed that it did say that.

"But," she asked, "How long is 75cm?" We got out a tape measure and looked to see how long it was, and went to the window with the tape measure to see how far up that would be. Lyddie then agreed that cornflowers would be too big for that position.

She checked through our stock of flower seed packets, looking to see which others she liked. "These then," she said, picking out night-scented stocks. "Let me see how tall they grow."

"30cm..." She checked on the tape measure, held it up to the window. "Yes that would be ok. Let's plant these. What does this say?"


"Full... sun. This window gets loads of sun, doesn't it? I have to keep closing the curtains to see my screen."

"Yes, I think it will be fine."

"What about this? Sow... March... Jun..."

"We have to plant them between March and June. The months."

"What month is this?"

"April. And it's ok, because the months go January, Febuary, March, April..." She started saying the months with me.

"Oh yes, April is fine! Right, let's get some soil."

So I filled up the pots with soil while she opened the seeds.

"How do I plant them?"

"It should tell us that on the back of the packet." I pointed at the relevant bit.

"4-6in apart. What does that mean?"

"Oh, those are inches. We're using centimetres. 10-15cm, look, it says that too."

"Why can't we use inches?"

"We can, but we used centimetres before so I thought we'd stick with centimetres. But we can use inches if you like." We got a ruler and saw how 10-15cm is the same as 4-6 inches. I explained, in passing, why we have both centimeters and inches in this country and how our uses of these measures have changed, even in my lifetime. Lyddie was planting the seeds, using the ruler to help with the spacings. She asked why the measurements had changed, so I tried to explain about the EU and how it had started out as a trade partnership and turned into a law-making body, like the government.

"Am I planting these seeds deep enough?"

"Let's check." We read the packet again and found they needed to be 'covered lightly with 0.5cm (quarter inch) of fine soil, firmed gently and kept moist. Seedlings appear in 14-21 days.'

"Oh, let's get the calendar and see when that will be," said Lyddie. We counted the days together from now to then, and wrote a reminder to check for the seedlings.

"Will you remember to water them?" I asked her.

"Of course!" she said. "I'll be able to see them all the time, so I won't forget."

We carried them outside, set them into place and went to get some water.

"I'm so glad we set this rainwater harvesting system up," I said. "I've always wanted an outside tap for watering plants."

She asked how it worked so I lifted her up so that she could see how the water collects in the gutter and runs down the pipe.

"When we build the new house I'm hoping to get all our washing and toilet-flushing water from the rain."

"Of course!" said Lyddie. "Because it falls for free from the sky, doesn't it?"

We had quite a chat then about reservoirs, water companies, rates and meters, while we watered the seeds. Then we went inside.

"Did we do that without learning then?"

Lyddie looked at me as if I was a bit dim. "Of course we did," she said. "It was just planting. No learning at all."

"Oh good," I said.


Blogger Mieke said...

We had this thing about learning with 12 yr old R the other day (he hasn't been out of school very long). He said to us he never wanted to do any learning, ever again. It turned into a bit of a game then. Of course there were the obvious ones, as in when he was asking questions and we would say: "I could answer, but it would mean you'd be learning."
But dd and ds made a point of pointing out the less obvious ones while they were playing games, walking the dogs, eating, cooking, sorting out bus times to go into town, and even arguing. The conclusion at the end of the day - after watching a David Attenborough episode on TV - was that they were learning all the time, so school wasn't the only place where you learn things. In fact, their conclusion was that without school you learn more...

9:48 am, April 11, 2008  
Blogger Dani said...

That is hilarious, Gill! I wonder how long Lyddie will persist in claiming she's not learning. I've heard of other HE kids saying to strangers things like "we don't do anything, really, just watch tv all the time", while their embarrassed parents mentally enumerate that week's social and educational activities...

9:53 am, April 11, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

"In fact, their conclusion was that without school you learn more..."

Well yes, arguably school is there for lots of other reasons, including to prevent learning (as JT Gatto explained so well.) And EF's recent post on homework demonstrates it from a different aspect.

Dani, if you asked her she would tell you that she can't write, she can't read and she certainly never does any number work! I'm very interested in the way children - especially HEd ones - view their own learning and academic abilities. I wonder if it's something we naturally want to keep private, because we need to keep ownership of it, to stay in control.

I'm wondering if, left to their own devices and not forced into a system of education which demands 'results' and evidence and so on, children instinctively know that they can and will learn more if they determinedly keep control of the process?

And LOL yes, it can get embarrassing when people ask what she kind of learning she does at home!

12:12 pm, April 11, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

I should have used this Gatto link instead I think. Or maybe the whole book is online somewhere? It's a short, though very powerful read.

12:19 pm, April 11, 2008  
Blogger Jules said...

Oh I loved reading that, thank you!

9:06 pm, April 13, 2008  
Blogger ruth said...

Brilliant:) D classes learning as any writing at the table. If no writing is involved ( at the table) it isn't learning to him. D says he can't read when he means he won't cos it looks boring or he would rather do something else. B insists to anyone he can't read despite reading Harry Potter books and Redwall. His reluctance to admit he can comes for the fact he doesn't know every single word. The maths thing floored me cos I had no idea where they were at with it ( again we can't do it was the war cry)and wasn't until I bought a maths workbook at a level I thought was way above them I realised they had, at some point in the past, worked out how to do most of the problems in the book. It is things like that that make me think my structured stuff is a complete and utter waste of time.( dh has just read my comment over my shoulder and is nodding his head lol)

11:51 am, April 14, 2008  
Blogger flutterby said...

ours went the other way, muffin said she wanted learning all the time. i couldn't do 'learning' all the time, now she flexi-schools she realises we were learning all the time.... she doesn't want to return to full time home ed though, she likes the obvious learning she does in the classroom, but now she realises the stuff we do at home is learning too.

9:44 am, April 15, 2008  

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