Friday, October 10, 2008

The Best Learning

I'm thinking that Thursdays are my favorite day of the week. Even if it is my busiest. That's the day of the week we have our homeschooling co-operative. When we get together to learn. But we do so much more than have class together. There are so many things that we teach each other.Throughout the afternoon, one parent is teaching some of our children about the fundamentals of reading and equipping them with the tools to be inspired by books. Another is teaching art theory and color confluences. One spot is littered with plastic bodies...a diorama in a historical re-enactment. In another room, we are parsing sentence structures and improving register selection. From the kitchen, wafts the scents of blueberry muffins or those glistening cinnamon rolls,sending out tantalizing fingers...proud product of the Home Ec class.(A definite incentive to show up before Announcements, so as to be entered into the drawing--what a pity it isn't gluten free!) Somewhere else, saw dust dances to the buzz of the machinery that set it in motion. This is most of what we gather for. But not all.

But even then this may not be the best learning. In many ways, the best learning is what happens outside of the classroom or hasn`t been pre-meditated and written down. I recall one college professor announcing to our class, 'I`m not here to teach you. I`m here to teach you how to teach yourself.' I imagined what my parents would say to the concept that the tuition that they were paying wasn`t actually funding an liberal arts education, but one in learning to fish. As in 'give a person a fish and they are fed today--teach them to fish and they feed themselves for a lifetime.' So part of what we`re doing here is learning to fish. We`re creating autodidacts. Like when our Butterfly Whisperer came in with a compelling caterpillar, there was an exciting opportunity to scour the internet in an attempt to discover what kind of butterfly it would become...and what will it eat in order to become that. Spicebush Swallowtail, it turns out.

Additionally,some of the things that we learn are not even overtly taught. Or are not in the curriculum or on the lesson plan. Things like teamwork.Learning how to work together toward a common goal, putting impatiences and irritations aside for the greater good. Not every child is thrilled about the course selection or the activity planned for the day, but in this process, learn forbearance. It`s the iron sharpening iron again.The rubbing of each person against another that wears off everyone`s rougher spots and hones us. It`s the learning to speak to each other with the law of kindness on our tongue. The learning of respect for each other`s space and place...sometimes as simple as standing in line.As homeschoolers, we are often free to wander our own paths and the discipline of working in harness with others can be a useful exercise.This isn`t the sort of thing that I write on my lesson plan when I`m projecting what we need to cover in class for the upcoming week, but I`m glad that it somehow finds its way into the learning process anyhow. These are the things we all need to learn.

One of the things the Hobbits need to learn is how to eat their vegetables. So in the spirit of guerrilla nutrition, I'm always looking for ways to stealth move vegetables in to their diets. Since they like just about anything that looks like a pancake and hold the promise of maple syrup, they were game to try the latest invention.

Parsnip Pancakes

6-8 parsnips, chopped and steamed
1 cup sourdough starter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp guar gum
2 T chopped onion
1 egg

Run steamed parsnips through a food processor until creamy. Add remaining ingredients and whirl until incorporated. In hot skillet, melt a small amount of lard or ghee and dollop in 1/4 cup or so of batter. When browned on one side, flip and flatten with spatula. Cook until pancake is cooked to the center. Serve hot. Syrup mandatory for Hobbits.

Not all of the Hobbits were inspired by these, though Bug came back for thirds. They're learning.

Indeed, the best learning isn`t really inside the classroom at all, though that`s the stated reason we all come. The best learning happens in the spontaneous 'teacher' conferences in the hallways and kitchen. The sharing of ideas and experiences. Newly-discovered research. Newly-mastered skills. Or even old ones that are new to someone else. We`re teaching each other how to teach ourselves. The best learning.

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