Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All play and no work makes for lots of completed projects!

Often times, clients have mentioned that I have a remarkable way of engaging their children. Just today, I was told that my writing class was the favorite out of an array of homeschool classes held at a local coop. This was surprising to me, as I know that I “compete” with some super fun, hands on classes.

However, on introspecting more, I know that my approach to education works very well with my students. This approach is one of flexibility, understanding, and appreciation for each student individually.

A great example of this approach in action is that all of my students know that homework is optional. This freedom enables them to practice their work without the added stress of *having* to get something done.

Each week, I am pleasantly surprised at the number of students who choose to hand in their writing projects. Furthermore, many of them dive into extra projects without being given any external incentive (I don’t believe in giving out external motivators, such as stars, points, toys, etc.).

I theorize that their work ends up feeling like (or is even perceived as) play. Play being any activity that engages us because we have an interest in it. This self-interest is the greatest motivator to enhance learning.

Education as play is certainly crucial in the academic development of children. The earlier my students are responsible for their own education, the better. Thinking experimentally, I would doubt that I could induce this play feeling in older students because they have engrained the idea that learning is work, it's hard, and it's mandatory. However, I do think that over time, older students would slowly acclimate to this new approach.

Speaking as a student of life, I certainly play a lot (today I learned to do a headstand!). Googling topics, reading, and intellectually engaging in activities are routine parts of everyday. As an adult, I greet this state of wonder for its interesting, fruitful, and growth producing interactions.