A Good Game & A Little-Known Fact about Learning
We've loved our "Famous People" game for a long time, so I just recently made more cards to extend the game.
Get a list of famous people throughout history, or for younger children make a list of people in your family (perhaps at different ages in their lives).
(Pages 110 to 114 in The Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook has massive lists of famous people throughout history.)
Get photos of these people and print them out.
(I used google images for famous people - made a file on my desktop, saved lots of pictures to the file - ensure that I called the photo by the name of the person, then selected 9 at a time, and printed them onto one piece of paper "wallet size images".)
Cut the photos out.
Glue photos onto bits of cardboard.
Write the person's name onto the back of their photo - refer back to your file if you get Raleigh mixed up with Drake ... or Rembrandt and Rockwell ...
There are many ways to play this, and often history-loving visitors like to have a go too.
Mainly we just show our children the cards - the people they guess correctly we put into a discard pile, the ones they don't know we tell them, and then go through that pile again to see if they have remembered.
Then we put them away for next time.
Or you can scatter the cards on the table and grab the ones you know, naming them quickly till you have the "tricky" ones left that you always forget. You can hold the card up for someone else to see what is written on the back, and ask them for a clue, like "What letter does his last name start with?"
Sometimes a child will be very interested in a picture of a person, and they might ask "What did she do?" If you don't know be honest - "I don't know, shall we look it up, or do you want me to look it up and tell you?" Some children go off the idea if they are going to have to look it up by themselves, or with you ...
For the children who are excited about looking it up you can run down FABULOUS rabbit trails - from Queen Victoria to Victorian interior decoration, and palms used in parlors, fussy wallpaper, flocked wallpaper, how they flock wallpaper, how to wallpaper a room, measuring ... or Victoria and Disraeli, Disraeli and the Conservative party, what is the conservative party, who are the other parties ... Oh I love research!! And I have a few children who have also come to love it!
So that's the game. And my last thoughts above lead me onto the second thing I wanted to share with you.
People might say "What good is it if the children only know what a famous person LOOKED like ... they need to know facts, dates in history, what the person did that was good/bad/otherwise, what they contributed to the world ..."
And here's the gem that I learned many, many years ago from a wise home educator.
We don't need to learn everything at once.
We don't need to push HEAPS of information into our brain in relation to one subject.
Imagine, if you will, that our brain houses thousands of jigsaw puzzle boards - just waiting to have the puzzles completed.
One puzzle board will eventually have an almost completed puzzle of "horses", one will have "Mozart", one will have "deep sea creatures" one will have "poetry that I like" etc etc etc .... all things that we have become interested in during our lives, and have gathered information about.
So when a child first learns what a horse looks like - one little puzzle piece goes into their puzzle board labelled "horses".
Some time later they might learn that horses come in different colours - another piece goes into the puzzle (and at the same time a puzzle piece about colours goes onto a "colours" puzzle board).
Then they might learn that people ride horses, and that cowboys use horses, and some people compete in jumping etc ... so many puzzle pieces going into the puzzle board for horses (also puzzle boards for "cowboys" and "show jumping"), and all the while, their understanding of horses becomes clearer and clearer.
The same for "deep sea creatures". A child might become interested in an angler fish - there's a piece going into the puzzle board in their brain about "deep sea creatures". And then they learn about tripod fish, and the midnight zone ... all these facts that they are interested in, and absorbing add to the puzzle about deep sea creatures.
At the moment we are re-reading a book about some Vikings who landed in Scotland. The children who are listening to the story are taking in whatever bits interest them (folklore, language, monarchy, religion, history, geography, relationships ...) and therefore, they are adding bits to relevant puzzles in their brains.
There isn't an effective, fail-safe way to "check up on" or "test" just what is being remembered, retained, enjoyed, reflected on. And you don't need to. Trust the children. They are adding puzzle pieces to various puzzles when they are trusted and their days are relaxed and full of "input" :)
Many parents are surprised when at a later point in time, a child will bring something up that they heard, read, or experienced - and it might be something that the parent never thought the child had noticed.
It's such an exciting thing to realise that we learn this way! We skip around subjects, gathering information here and there on hundreds of topics, our brain filing the information away, adding new bits to the puzzles and the pictures become clearer and clearer.
I am so confident that a natural learning lifestyle allows this love of learning and a complete joy in gathering new facts and information in the topics that interest us.
And of course, as adults, we know that we sometimes have to gather new facts and information in topics that don't particularly interest us, but are necessary to survive/move forward in the direction we have chosen (how to create a profile and log in to the IRD website, or how to complete an exemption for a child, or how to work out a budget etc). But when learning hasn't become a heavy chore, when life in general is interesting and engaging, then it's far EASIER to put energy into the hard/unpleasant but necessary tasks.
Over the years, that mental image of all those puzzles being formed in the brains of my children has been a wonderful help. So very different from the way I was (and thousands of other parents were) educated, this image gives me confidence that the child will gather puzzle pieces at their own pace, and retain a joy for learning that is one of the best gifts we can give our children.