Hands-On Learning

I came across this article the other day about a professor who taught her students advanced math through knitting, and thought this was a great example of teaching using non-traditional methods. My father went to Roeper School, a progressive school in Birmingham, Michigan for gifted children that also values self-directed education, and he often told the story of how his teacher taught them fractions by bringing in a blueberry pie. This obviously stuck with him quite clearly, and this knitting professor reminded me of it. My own kids have learned math concepts and skills through various real-life experiences–cooking and baking, designing a pattern for a piece of clothing, helping me plan a grocery list, budget, and pay for things at the store, playing Minecraft or other games, playing with Legos or blocks, looking at plants and how they are built (oh, the beauty of fractals and the Fibonacci sequence). Learning how to knit and following knitting patterns, and then moving on to being able to adjust existing patterns or create my own was a fun way for me to improve my own skills and understand things better in a visual and tactile way. Many of us seem to understand concepts better when we can hold things in our hands and manipulate them, when we can see ideas manifested in the real world rather than just looking at numbers on a page.

The thing I love most about unschooling is that everything we do is seen as educationally valuable–we are always learning through our play and our work. We can be as creative with subjects or ideas as we are inspired to be!

Image result for knitting

What Can Self-Directed Learning Look Like?

We decided as a community this year to become part of the Agile Learning Center Network. We had previously thought of ourselves as partially modeled after the Sudbury schools, but found that the ALC model offered some useful practical tools along with a flexibility that aligned with the kind of culture we try to create and support at Little Lake. We came across this article that gives a brief description of a few different examples of self-directed learning environments, highlights the basics of each, and then compares their similarities and differences. I appreciated that it referred to them as part of “the ecosystem of Self-Directed Education,” because different approaches meet different needs, and all bring common values to the table. Enjoy!

Agile Learning Centers, Liberated Learners, and Sudbury Schools: What’s the Difference?