Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is learning anyway?

We had such an interesting day today. The first part started with oversleeping, but that was ok, because no one ended up being truly late for anything (my older two kids go to school and my husband has to go to work sometimes). Rowan and I had a nice, but short homeschooling session, reviewing our recent stories, doing some writing, reading and math work together. We also looked at photos from our summer trip to India. Rowan was very excited to show these photos to our Educational Specialist who was scheduled to arrive mid-morning. We are enrolled in a charter program designed for homeschool families and the technical start date of the school year contained our trip to India. We were preparing material to show some of the amazing things that were learned on the trip.

Now for the strange part. Our Educational Specialist (ES) arrives and immediately sets Rowan up on the computer to take a scantron test designed (so they say) to show how much he "knows"). Rowan is a slow reader and still feels most comfortable if he can read side by side with someone and ask for help with any tricky words. He has not done much academic work on the computer and has done very few activities that involve multiple choice answers. In other words, we are working with the Waldorf method! Rowan learns by doing things in the real world. Anyway, while Rowan plods along on the computer with no help, I sit in this meeting and show all the great stuff we have prepared. Turns out that next to none of it can be used because things learned outside the US don't count! So when Rowan learned that he could ask a guy in a small village to take a fresh coconut and chop it open for him and give him a straw to dring the milk and pay only 13 rupees for it and that 13 rupees is equal to 26 cents in the US, that is not math. When Rowan figured out how to play Monopoly and Sorry with kids from India, France, Britian and Italy, that did not count as learning. When Rowan learned all about the traditional way that people catch fish with intricate nets, wooden boats, levers and pulleys, that does not count for social studies. As you can see, I was very annoyed. Rowan finished his dull computer test, having guessed at most of the questions (his scores will probably show him as a kid who is way below average) and the ES said that next time she hopes she can talk to Rowan about the things he is learning in homeschooling. I felt that we had just wasted an hour of valuable homeschooling time.

Ah, but we did recover from that awful experience. We went on a little field trip as part of our farming and gardening block. I have a friend who has a cow. A single, spoiled cow who provides fresh milk for the family that owns her. She lives in a little suburban plot with plenty of room and a beautiful sprawling garden all around her. Rowan insisted that it was a mini-farm and he so wishes that we could have one too. We fed the cow pumpkins and apples and tasted apples and cheese made from the cow's milk. It was a fabulous visit. Rowan took in so much and learned so much, although none of it will translate into better performance on any multiple choice test. But I don't care, it was great!

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