I love collaborative learning and especially the way young kids will vibe off each other. When it works – it’s wonderful and often they don’t even realise they are learning, but how often does the magic happen? It’s certainly not most of the day or even every day. Some of my most vivid memories of school (and I loved school) where sitting in the group watching the magic happen for two or three members and feeling left behind (not understanding) or bored (I knew it already). I’ve never been that much of a team player, I don’t like working with others on a task. Being a writer is perfect for me because I like hanging out with people but doing the work alone. I liken the idea of the classroom to a false relationship as in the above meme because it’s not what it’s set up to be. We all remember fondly those teachers who really looked out for us as people, nurtured our talents and inspired us because it was pretty rare to have a great one to one connection with the teacher against up to 30 others. I saw a wonderful Ted Talk on Montessori education – it sounded so good – all the TED talks on preschool education sound good, but so much depends on the teacher, class sizes, other pupils and then the teacher and your child having that great connection. When you supervise one to one instruction, you know if the connection is there or not, if the instruction is effective or not and if your child is enjoying it or not. When you’re child is in a classroom, you’re not there and when you liaise with the teacher afterwards, you’re only getting one side of the story.
My 3yo son enjoys group activity very much and I notice he picks up vocabulary, cultural norms and general knowledge that way. But when he needs to master something, he generally needs 1-1 instruction. This was true for me. I know a lot of the ‘bright’ kids at school did work outside school to remain ahead of the class. Their magic was private tuition which starts at age 4 in Lagos for children in school.
Case in point – swimming. Over the past year he has had two sets of 10 weeks of lessons in group format. 4/5 kids every week with one highly qualified teacher. She’s one of very view certified swimming instructors in Lagos. But in those 20 weeks, my son wouldn’t get off the ring. He screamed his head off if you tried to take him out of it but would swim great with the ring on. There was consequently little improvement in his actual swimming ability or confidence. Three weeks ago after a 2 month break we started once weekly lessons with a new uncertified teacher in a format where each child would have their own 30 minutes in the water with the teacher. Yesterday my son was able to swim without any swimming aids for the first time.
In other areas of our homeschool I’ve noticed my son has days where he will move at a snail’s pace and days where he will zip through his activity and beg for more. Each stage we are able to go at his pace. That’s been very helpful.