Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Learning has no set shape

For those who have followed this blog, you'll recall my mild anxiety over Danny's progress with the shape sorter. If not, here's an excerpt from May:
I've been a little worried that he can identify shapes, but can't seem to place the square in the square hole without a whole lot of frustration and some direction from mommy. Each day, he picks up a square, circle, star or triangle and tries mightily for like 3 seconds to put it in a non-matching hole before hyperventilating, screaming and hurling the shape across the room.
He still can't get the shapes in the right hole. It still frustrates him. Well, Danny's 50-cent MagnaDoodle came with four magnetic shapes and a magnetic pen. He can correctly put all four shapes in the holes. The difference, I think, is that the shape sorter has one purpose - and that purpose frustrates him. The MagnaDoodle is an activity he enjoys.

This seems to square with my educational philosophy that people learn what they need to know when it's a part of their life, not part of a formal curriculum. Danny quickly tires of an activity that is meant to teach a certain skill, but quickly picks up that same skills when it's secondary to an activity he enjoys. He's not big on puzzles either, by the way, nor is he very interested in reading books; but he is interested in letters and in how certain objects fit into certain spaces. His (and my) favorite activity is our computer time when we "do letters" as he says. For months, we've enjoyed, which uses a phonics-based approach. I suspect he enjoys the one-on-one time and the physical closeness more than the letters. That doesn't mean he isn't learning. He definitely is - the letter M happens to be his favorite one. But when we started out, learning wasn't my primary focus. I was mainly looking for an activity that he might sit still for and that would fit nicely into our daily routine. As for puzzles, I've given up. The other day, in the back yard, with as intense concentration as I've ever seen, Danny repeatedly slipped a thin stick into a tiny hole on our grill. For him, that's a puzzle.

Back to the MagnaDoodle ... unfortunately, the shapes are all now missing and while my OCD tendencies are kicking in, being eight-months pregnant has thus far prevented an all-out, hands and knees scouring. Incidentally, I had my husband take the feet off the sofa and chair in the living room so that toys (and dust and dog hair) wouldn't get swallowed. The downside? Now the sofa and chair are about two inches shorter and, for me, sitting down and getting up is a little more difficult.

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