You want a kid to learn history, share well-researched historical fiction. If you want a child to understand cultures other than her own, and travel isn’t an option, read to her.
At school, my voracious readers just know things other kids don’t.
If you want reading to be delightful, choose kid-friendly topics. And, please, don’t follow every story with a pencil and paper test or even a fun project.
When kids have questions, send them to the computer or encyclopedia for answers. Every nonfiction writer I know loves the research. Kids do, too.
If you want a kid to learn science, take them out into the world. Do experiments. Ask questions and try to answer them. Science is all around us, in the everyday physics of living. What you don’t do is give the kid a science textbook. Destroy the dangerous notion that memorizing facts and definitions is science, unless you want to dissuade a generation of young scientists.
Have you seen the joy that kids take from holding fossils in their hands? Have you witnessed the delight of a child when she discovers the shrew skull hidden in an owl pellet? Now, that’s science!
Math can be learned with child’s play, too. Who’s ever known a domino player who couldn’t immediately recognize multiples of five?
Last week, the Gifted and Talented teacher in my building was using dice to teach fractions. Students worked in pairs. Each threw two dice to make a fraction, the smaller value over the larger. They had to decide whose fraction was bigger.
Kids love art. They love music. They love recess and sitting with friends during a lunch period that lasts longer than 15 minutes. Kids need time.
What they don’t need is one more test.
Let’s go back to the once-a-year test that measures the progress of each student. One-on-one tests administered locally will help teachers design appropriate lessons that reach the needs of each student.
Yes, that means teachers need time, too, and standards created by educators. They need to be able to collaborate with colleagues. And they need respect for their craft.
Curiosity and boredom don’t coexist. Neither does ignorance and freedom. If we want a strong nation, let’s start here. Give teachers the tools to make learning joyful. In turn, we’ll start kids on an adventure that will last a lifetime.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer