Category Archives: Numbers

Today’s “maths lesson”

Sudoku on the DS: oldest daughter teaches middle daughter, youngest watches and listens. My input: none whatsoever required!

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Filed under Co-operating, Innate, Natural learning - how it works, Numbers

Learning last year

In and amongst the new year celebrations here, I’ve been thinking and chatting with the children about what we all learned last year. It’s probably quite easy for me to list some of the skills that some of us mastered:

Keeping accounts
Holding conversations
Getting dressed
Playing guitar
Playing piano accordion
Dismantling, fixing and rebuilding piano accordion
Resolving certain laptop malfunctions
Map reading
Drawing faces, with BIG smiles (but no noses)
Building Lego ships
Driving a computer mouse

I’ll let those of you who know us work out (or remember) who learned which of those skills in 2009!

And I think most of us have garnered quite a lot of information, in response to our own curiosity. Some of the areas that some of us have been learning about last year have included:

Where other countries are on the globe in relation to the UK
Other cultures, beliefs and customs
Letter sounds
Politics, economics and the history of these
The development of technology

But it’s a lot less easy to list what we learned in terms of thinking, ideas or principles. I’m struggling to do that for myself, let alone for the children.

I think I learned that it’s ok to apply a certain amount of teaching to completely unschooled children, as long as they’re happy about it and interested in what’s being taught. This was difficult for me to grasp at first because the older three, having been in school for a few years as younger children, had so much resistance to the idea of actively being taught something that they just learned more, better and easier under their own steam.

I assumed all children would be like that in non-coercive situations, but I now know from the younger two that they’re not, if they haven’t been damaged by the violent coercion of schooling.

I don’t think I worked that out in its entirety just in 2009 though. It’s been an evolving train of thought and experiment for the past three years or so. But last year probably provided enough clarification for me to accept it as being ‘true’.

I also learned that it’s ok if I don’t say ‘yes’ to every request that’s made of me, although after a childhood of violent training to the contrary, this is a hard realisation for me to put into practice all the time, even 30-40 years later. Those childhood lessons really do run so deeply, which is why our relationship with our children is so fundamentally important. But that’s nothing new, is it? Just yet more verification of something very old.


Filed under Business, Co-operating, Driving, ICT, Innate, Numbers, Reading, Russian

More happens when you leave it alone

Lyddie and I haven’t done any reading practice for weeks. Peter and Jane have been abandoned on the sideboard since she lost interest in them back then. I started getting a bit concerned this week, thinking the development of her reading skill might be stagnating, especially since she’s been really enjoying hearing me read to her for about an hour a day, when we started on the Famous Five series ten days or so ago, but not expressing any desire to try to read them to herself.

I mentioned Peter and Jane this week, when my throat was aching from Famous Five reading, saying something like: “You’re not too far off being able to read these to yourself, you know. We should get back to Peter and Jane and work on your reading skill again,” and she said: “Hmm, well, I’d quite like to be able to read this Thumbelina book to myself.”

I opened it, glanced at a page and told her: “Well, you might be able to. Give it a go?” – not, to be quite honest, at all confident that she could, it being quite well in advance of the Peter and Jane she’d abandoned on the sideboard in frustration weeks before. She picked it up and read a page out loud – slowly, but quite smoothly. And another, and another. She was as amazed as I was that she could do it so well, and so easily. We were both delighted: it was a lovely surprise.

I’d forgotten that about the natural learning process. There often has to be a period of leaving it alone for quiet absorption and/or deep processing to take place. If you systematically push something every day remorselessly, even after the student wants to stop, that’s damaging – or at best, impeding. But if you’re able to be completely responsive and stop at the right time (i.e. when the learner says they’ve had enough) then something seems to happen subconsciously in the break – a consolidation process.

She’s picking up books a lot now, reading the odd page here and there and delighting in the fact that she can.

The same has been happening with numbers. We haven’t done any workbooks for a while, and she’s been doing mental arithmetic. “Do you know, Mum, 7 and 7 is 14, and 14 and 14 is 28?” A visitor made the mistake of asking her what 28 and 28 is then, and she told them she didn’t want to know the answer to that.

There’s always someone who wants to take charge of her learning process for her and start trying to lead it! But I’m sure that slows her down.

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Filed under Aptitude, Natural learning - how it works, Numbers, Reading

“Hey Mum, five and five is ten…”

“So it is.”

“And three and three is six. And six and five is eleven!”

“Yes! How did you know that?”

(I know she ‘knows’ that – we’ve done various bits of number work – it’s an ongoing thing – but I didn’t think she had those sums fresh in her mind right now and anyway, she seems to come to it from a different, fresh angle every time.)

“From the clock!”

It’s funny, Lyddie’s always been obsessed by clocks even in her first year of life. She could tell the time before she learned anything else to do with numbers or reading. I’ve noticed her using it as a reference for numbers before: in writing them she always used to glance up at a clock to check which way round they went.

Anyway, I then made the cardinal mistake of trying to interfere with encourage this natural learning process, as well-meaning parents are so often wont to do:

“So. What’s four and four then?”

She clammed up. “I don’t know.”

“Well, look at the clock…” I pressed on, in spite of alarm bells loudly ringing.

“No thanks. I’ve had enough of that now.”

Then I left it alone, at last. One day I will learn to just say: “Oh! That’s nice, dear,” like the wisest parents always did.


Filed under Equipment, Numbers