Children Must Play

Dr. Christopher Perrin’s seminar was entitled, “Why Children Must Play to Learn”.  I’ll be honest: I attended this because I like Perrin as a speaker, but also because I wanted a little permission to let go of my “school-must-be-rigorous” guilt.  This guilt had been building over many days when the 6yo ran off to build intricate blanket forts in her room, instead of doing schoolwork at the table. Despite that, her reading skills are blooming, she’s memorizing her math facts, and she’s making academic connections relating to science and history.  Perhaps the play is a good thing?  I listened to Dr. Perrin to find out.

Perrin introduced us to the idea of a “play history”.  What’s your play history?  Cal Tech discovered that those with great play histories made great engineers – however, those that lacked play histories in their children were poor engineers.  Cal Tech changed their interview process to include play histories, and based hiring decisions on those that had played well as children.

Plato speaks of play and learning going hand in hand: if a child doesn’t play, the learning will not be permanent.

Play is self motivating.  Children want to return to the same play again and again.  Of course, there is a similarity to the ideals of Classical learning: we learn through repetition.

Many toys today offer high amusement, but low on educational benefit; especially those that advertise their educational focus.  David Elkind in the book The Power of Play speaks about this problem.  Toys should leave something to the imagination.  Another book recommendation was Stuart Brown’s Play.

Perrin stressed the importance of Dad rough and tumble play, especially with boys (although girls benefit, too!)  As we get older, however, we are made to feel guilty about play.  It’s “unproductive” time spent.  However, play makes life lively, and it is a part of what makes a person whole.

Play has a very real, practical purpose.  It prepares us for an uncertain, changing world.  It’s a simulation.  Animals play, especially baby animals.  If you’ve ever watched a puppy, you know they are not just having fun; they’re training for hunting and social order and all the skills that an adult dog might need.

Perrin shared the definitions of Greek and Latin words that show the important connection between children, learning, and play.  Paidia in Greek means “play”, while “paideia” means “children” – the words are very similar to each other.  In Latin, “ludus” meant elementary school, but could also mean game or play (we get the word “ludicrous” from “ludus”).

Play is relaxation from work.  It’s a way to refresh and recharge.

Entering the Flow:
“Entering the flow” is what happens when work, play, and love intersect.  The result? Joy and delight.

Perrin encourages us to play with our children.  Surprise them and be unpredictable!  He also encourages us to push our children outdoors, or to play, create, use their imaginations, and steer them away from the technology and schoolwork devoid of all play.

So perhaps my fort building daughter is in training for a future career as an engineer?

But What Good Is an English Major

  • Ian Andrew’s seminar title in full was – “But What Good Is an English Major – A Homeschool Graduate Reflects on the Benefits of a Literary Education”, which was timely, because I had been wondering the same thing. In high school, I wracked up more English credits than p.e. and all my enrichments combined (I had to count my English credits as electives; otherwise, I didn’t have enough to graduate). My oldest is the same way: literature is her thing.

Ian Andrews is the son of Adam and Missy Andrews, of Center for Lit fame. This was his first speaking engagement at a homeschool conference. His big question was – “Why get an education when you can train for a career?” As the child of two literature buffs, the first lesson he learned was to “sit still and pay attention”. This lesson served him well in his life, and he believes this is something all English majors learn to do.

Ian gave a demonstration in front of the class of true literary analysis – one that uses our thinking skills and helps us to gain appreciation for great literature, rather than killing it. Led through the Scarlet Letter, we understood the characters and setting, the plot arch through its rising action, and the (many possible) turning points of the novel. We saw what Hawthorne was really getting at through the trials and tribulation, to bring us into a deeper understanding of his real theme: truth, freedom, and forgiveness.

He said not to believe the hype that English majors cannot find jobs. English majors are in demand, as they have the skills necessary to thrive in the workplace.

English majors possess these skills:

  • People persons. They’ve already interacted with a wide range of personalities – the Hester Pryns, the Dimmsdales, the Chillingsworths, and the Goodwives of our current age – and they know how to get along with all of them.
  • Good communication skills. English majors can write clearly, accurately, and persuasively, which is invaluable in jobs.
  • Sit still and pay attention. English majors have sat and paid attention through some very difficult literature. Non-lit people tend to struggle with focus.

What does an English major bring to a job interview that no one else does?

  • Listening skills. The interviewee will listen to what the job entails and will ask good questions about the job.
  • Tools to learn. The English major has the tools to learn anything they put their mind to.
  • Will know that they don’t know everything. The average interviewee assumes that they need to know everything already, and that will be obvious in the interview. The English major, however, recognizes that they don’t know everything and isn’t afraid to admit their lack of experience. They are ready and able to learn new things, and can quickly add to their skill set; making them an invaluable asset in the workplace.

Homeschool Convention 2016

At this time last week, I was at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, OH, learning from fantastic speakers.  If you get the opportunity to visit a convention, take it!  It’s a great way to glean new ideas, become encouraged, and peruse curriculum.  This post will cover two topics: List of Seminars that I attended, and Convention Tips.  The List of Seminars will serve as a Table of Contents, linking to a review of each seminar (links will be added as the review becomes available).  Convention Tips will help you navigate the stupefying maze of convention speakers and curriculum sellers.

List of Seminars:

  1. Ian Andrews – “But What Good is an English Major?” – A Homeschool Graduate Reflects on the Benefits of a Literary Education.
  2. Dr. Christopher Perrin – Why Children Must Play to Learn
  3. Chrystal Evans Hurst – Balancing the Busy
  4. Sarah Mackenzie – Beauty and Delight in the Ordinary, Chaotic Homeschool
  5. Michael Gurian – The Minds of Girls: Effective Strategies for Teaching Girls
  6. Andrew Kern – Why Writing is Not a Subject and Why Every Subject Needs Writing to Be Properly Taught
  7. Beth Ellen Nash – Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person
  8. Carol Topp – Career Exploration for High School Students
  9. Janice Campbell – Teacher’s Toolbox: Planning, Record-keeping, and Transcripts as a Blueprint for Homeschool Success.
  10. Adam Andrews – Socratic Method for Dummies
  11. Carol Topp – How You (or Your Child) Can Become a Published Author
  12. Martin Cothran – G. K. Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement

Convention Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and bring snacks.  Sometimes it’s difficult to break away and grab a meal, so have something on hand.  Staying hydrated is critical to avoiding overwhelm, which can manifest as migraine headaches.
  • Pick a variety of seminars, one that energizes you, one that teaches you new methods, and one for each stage in your children’s learning.  If you teach any special classes in a group setting or want to understand your curriculum better, see one of the seminars taught by the author or a representative of his/her company.  If you do not want to hear a sale’s pitch, however, avoid seminars whose sole method is to sell you on their books.
  • It’s OK to quietly and respectfully sneak out the backdoor of a seminar that isn’t meeting your needs or expectations.  Take a breather or slip into the 2nd choice seminar on your list!
  • TAKE A BREAK.  Seminars are schedule with 1 half hour in between and run continuously from 8:30 am until 8pm, without lunch or dinner breaks.  You do not need to fill that time with every seminar hour offered.  If you sit in on 4-6 seminars in a day, consider it a success!  Hitting all 8 in a day will lead to crash-and-burn quickly.
  • TAKE QUIET TIME ALONE, if you need to.  Everyone gets depleted.  Keep an eye on how much the noise, excitement, and new information might be overloading your circuits, and take a time-out if you need to.  If you bring your family with you, keep an eye on their needs, too.  Overdoing it isn’t worth it.  Seminars that you missed can always be purchased afterward, or you can catch up with a friend that sat in on that particular seminar.
  • Schedule time to hit the curriculum hall.  Schedule lots of time.  Make a list of books you want to see.  Peruse the hall at your leisure, getting an idea of what’s available and where it’s located.
  • Don’t impulse-buy books.  Pre-planning is key.  Buy books from your pre-planned shopping list.  Or, if you’ve been trying to decide between two curriculum, use your time in the hall to chose between the two and make your purchase.  If you don’t purchase anything at all – it isn’t a bust!  You can always order from home when the time is right.
  • Don’t buy ahead.  It’s tempting to see the books you’ll need in 6-12 months and think “if I buy it now, I’ll get a discount”.  It happens often: a publisher you’re sold on no longer works in 6 months, and you find yourself ditching that curriculum and switching to another.  I’ve even experienced this with a math book that we’d used for 3 years.  I bought ahead 9 months, and discovered half way through the previous level that it was no longer working for us.  It’s better to spend a little extra on shipping later for a book that will get used, then save up front, but keep the book unused in a closet.