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“…it is not an imposition on children or an artificial exercise to work with numbers, quantity, classification, dimensions, forms, measurement, transformation, orientation, conservation, and change, or speed and space, because these explorations belong spontaneously to the everyday experiences of living, playing, negotiating, thinking and speaking by children.” ~ Loris Malaguzzi
What do you think Malaguzzi was saying in this quote?
“…it is not an imposition on children or an artificial exercise to work with numbers…”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; artificial exercises in learning. I am not sure whether I am an incredibly indecisive homeschool mama or an incredibly reflective one. I do know though that how we flow through our days is something which is continually on my mind.
These last few weeks, as I have been trying to find a working balance between unschooling and learning which aligns with our Australian Curriculum, I keep coming back to maths.
Much like reading (which I’ll share some thoughts on next week), I am becoming more and more convinced that targeted explorations (ones which focus on specific skills) can be both engaging and beneficial to Jack and Sarah while still allowing them to learn at their own pace and in their own way.
I think Malaguzzi is saying a couple of things in this quote. Firstly that working with numbers; exploring numbers and mathematical concepts outside of a child’s independent play, is a valid and worthwhile experience for children as these same concepts occur naturally during play and so an authentic connection can be made between the two.
So an invitation which encourages children to explore counting or classifying, computational strategies, shapes and patterning, measurement and volume, addition and subtraction or other mathematical concepts is not an ‘artificial exercise‘ for children as they will interact with the materials, make discoveries, test theories and practice new skills in much the same way they would during spontaneous play.
Secondly, what would be your understanding of an artificial exercise? I think these two words are the cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Are the experiences we are providing authentic?
- Are they based on our observations of our children?
- Do they represent a deep respect for children as capable, intelligent and with an extraordinary inner drive to explore and discover?
- Do they ignite a child’s curiosity? Does the experience make the child want to learn more?
- Are the materials beautiful or interesting to look at? touch?
- Can the child hold, move and explore all the materials?
So while so much of Jack and Sarah’s understanding of mathematical concepts has come from engaging with different materials during play, we also work together on specific skills.
I think in order to make sure we are responding to our child’s interests and not our own, we really need to watch and listen to our children so we can identify their questions or any misconceptions they may have.
If we jump the gun, if we have a sequence of skills we plan to introduce, we are creating experiences which are external to the child; artificial exercises. However when we watch their play and notice their wonderings, we can create an experience which meets their needs at that moment.
For us this means me referring to our Australian Curriculum and being mindful of the scope and sequence of concepts and then watching Jack and Sarah for opportunities to explore these concepts as their interests develop.
I am feeling more confident now that we can move forward with maths in an authentic way and I am looking forward to sharing more of our explorations with you all.
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