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Watching Miss Munchkin Learn

Just this week on the Unschooling List (my very favorite e-mail list!) we were talking about “how children learn” and whether one can teach a child how to learn. The example given was that there are a few curricula available that say they teach a child how to learn. So that was on my mind Wednesday when I visited Kat and was able to watch Miss Munchkin in the process of learning. Of course, to the adult it would look like she was just playing, but she was hard at hard learning how to navigate this new and wonderful world of hers. And doing a fine job of it too!

Miss Munchkin spends a lot of time in her walker right now. Her feet just hit the floor, but she loves sitting in it, being able to sit up and look around, have her toys on the tray where she can drop them and pick them back up again as she wants. Last week Kat told me that Miss Munchkin had not really figured out how she was getting from here to there in the walker. She would have this look of surprise when she’d go from point A to B like she didn’t know what had happened. Wednesday, though, it was obvious she has figured out that she is the one propelling the walker. Kat had pulled out a box of baby cereal, with it’s nice shiny crinkly plastic wrapper still on it, and was looking at the box. Miss Munchkin, across the kitchen in her walker, saw that box and in two seconds flat was across the floor, hands outstretched trying to reach the box! I am pretty sure she has not had any lessons on how to work the walker! And yet she managed to figure it out.

You can certainly teach someone a particular skill, such as how to compose a nice essay or how to play the flute. It’ll cut down on their trial and error time, prevent the “reinventing the wheel” process. But you are not teaching them how to learn. They are using their hardwired learning skills to pick up the skill you are showing them. Even teaching them to think more logically or how to use certain study skills, like listening better or taking notes of key words in a lecture, is not teaching them to learn. If they didn’t already know how to learn, they would not be able to listen to you, observe what you want, absorb the lesson and integrate it into their behavior.

It sure is fun watching a little one figure these things out!

Miss Munchkin crawling, almost too fast to get a good picture!

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