August 3, 2015

When do you stop? (Exploratory Learning)

This query was posted recently on TJEd Muse on yahoo. I thought I would give my answer here.Questions are in italics. For those unfamiliar with Thomas Jefferson Education aka Leadership education, I suggest two good books: A Thomas Jefferson Education Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver Van Demille
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille, and Michele Smith

Here is the Q and A: The child's interest eventually wanes in any subject, especially at a young age. I'm sure it best to trust myself as a parent and try to gauge each situation and do the best for the child at the time, but does anyone have any thoughts about when and how to stop an exploration?

Hopefully, never! We all have an attention span and yes, little children have shorter ones. That is natural. I do not feel it is necessary to artificially stop their learning through exploration. I probably feel this way, because their innate desire is to grow up, I strive to live as I would have them live, and their world is constantly expanding, giving them more to think on. I share what I am learning with my children and this expands their breadth. As they grow they begin to master their environment and gain skills which they can use to take their ever expanding breadth, deeper and deeper. What parents may see as a tangent in a child, is often nothing more than an area they have gain confidence in. If parents are in a rut, the children are most likely to follow.

If a child is very interested in lizards, you could go on with it for quite a while with all of the suggestions that have been made. Should you try to reach or aim for a conclusion so that there the child feels like they have accomplished something?

I feel that is not necessary to try and come to an artificial conclusion for the mere sake of accomplishment. Life is plentiful with many opportunities to experience closure and accomplishment. We plant gardens and harvest them. This gratification is greatly delayed and not immediate. We gain a since of accomplishment when we finish a book as a  family.  We can feel a sense of accomplishment when we work as a family to finish a our core book (the Bible) and begin again. We can feel a sense of accomplishment when we learn a skill and then use that skill to produce something.

My concern is that a child will tend to go quickly from interest to interest and not develop the skill of following through and completing tasks. 

I feel that follow-through and completion of tasks are best taught through home culture, especially through family work. Domestic or family work has been so maligned! We fail to see the brain development it encourages!!! First, daily repetition of working along side a parent that completes tasks, passes on the lessons to finish what you start. The day in day out, drip, drip, drip of not only finishing but doing quality work develops those habits and habitudes. The organizational part of the brain is the last to develop. The repetitive patterning of daily work, meals, scripture study, family reading, etc. help build brain structure, helps the mind understand systems, and builds the ground work for later independent academic studies. Look for and acknowledge the day to day accomplishments of the family.

I know that is mainly a skill for older children, but shouldn't it start to be developed at some point? It won't all of a sudden appear when a child is 14 if he has never had to follow through before.

I disagree that follow-through is mainly a skill for older children. I agree that it does not suddenly appear when a child is 14.  It may be second nature for older children if they were raised that way. However, follow-through, completion, finishing, a sense of accomplishment are all skills that most kindergartners of my generation began school with and we gained it at home, not in pre-schools. It is the home culture that instills character or lays the foundation of character. They are not primarily gained in academic study, but rather brought to academic study. Basically, if the parents have a good relationship with their children, live a great work ethic, have good habits, have cheerful attitudes, and if diversions are not openly competing, children tend to follow in their parent's footsteps. If parents are inconsistent, work by whim, mood, or motivation (when they feel like it), then their children are most likely to do the same.

But I wouldn't want to push them when it is no longer interesting to them and make it into a chore that turns them off of learning in general. Any thoughts?

That's great! I knew a woman who was not happy one child read all the time, so anytime he showed the slightest interest in anything else, she would sign him up for a class. Thus ended the interest, because burdened with hoop jumping the child was no longer free to explore and experiment. His brother on the other hand, loved to draw. Mom was not happy with that either. So, she was constantly pressuring him to read. Needless to say, they were quickly developing a hate of learning! I see this a lot in the TJEd community. I agree, do not make it a chore.

As children grow, especially into adolescent years, they want to show they are growing up.If they have been allowed time to develop a love of learning, they will take that and use it, along with their character, and naturally acquired skills, to take their learning deeper.

Core Phase and Love of Learning, when understood and prayerfully applied, can prepare a child for the rigors of scholar phase, better than early academic focus can.
Mahalo, Donna