Emanuel has just celebrated his third birthday. Like any child, he likes going outside, playing with water, hide & seek, car toys, car movie, eating candies and so on. His sister Hanna who is 16 now when was at his age had a thing for drawing. We used to have sheets of paper with Hanna’s art everywhere around the house, needless to say that walls were also her favorite support. She enjoyed art classes, soccer training & the choir. His brother Sean is 20 now liked soccer, power rangers, batman, eating and talking. Nothing new or odd being said here. That is what children do, right? That was all for my older ones. I thought that all we needed to do was to feed them, care for them, love them.
Emanuel though is a new chapter in my personal and professional life.
I read Learning All the Time by John Holt few months after Emanuel had been born. I didn’t have Emanuel in mind at the time, but the pedagogical studies in Early Childhood education towards completing my major in Pedagogy. But it gave me much more than that, it gave me a new perspective and I was looking forward to observing Emanuel’s development from the point of view of John Holt. A new role was added to our previous ones. We became more attentive to his needs and interests. And we started to believe he would learn much more than we expected from him and from everywhere he would draw his attention too.
So, our motto was not to force him to learn anything but to be open to him and to the things that mattered for him. And through a dialogical process stimulate and discover new possibilities with him. Of course our role as parents is also to educate by teaching values. We have always been aware of it, but when came to language, arithmetics and other subjects, we never thought it could be developed at home. In Brazil, it is often thought that children develop those at school. Well, more and more children start school earlier nowadays and many parents believe that the earlier the better to ensure academic success. But we are not thinking here of academic success. In fact, many people worry about Emanuel’s academic success but us. We are just delighted to watch him as he grow, and for the time being, that is all that matters.
It is true though that at the age of 3, he can do things with numbers that children at the age of 4/5 that I had observed in the pre-school internship requirement for my major couldn’t do. Everyone gets amazed when they watch him spelling, recognizing sounds and even words. Moreover, he is crazy about the solar system. When he was younger, his daddy and him used to look at the moon while waiting for me to get home. I don’t really know what got him started in astronomy in the first place. I can only guess that those nights watching the moon and talking triggered his curiosity… who knows? All I know though is that he moved from Solar System song for children to the Nasa website in a matter of couple of years which is all fine really. I see no problem as long as he is enjoying the journey of knowing and discovering new things.
For Emanuel actually everything seems to be a game of discovering. The sounds he invites us to discover. Being able to identify numbers, shapes, letters and letter sounds was a game he learned through songs and as he got older he would play with his dad even during meal times.
There are shapes everywhere, he learned through singing and exploring the world around him.
He finds pleasure in everything. And we are happy to keep things that way for as long as we can. My husband and I believe that we learn by wondering. By getting in touch with the object of our fascination. Driven by the desire to discover, to know it. Children know how to ask questions. Children know how to learn what triggers their curiosity. At least this is how Emanuel seems to learn and explore the world around him. He loves learning by doing too. He often tells us – Let me try it.
Some of Emanuel’s favorite questions. Questions he asks daily.
What’s that sound?
What do you think?
What’s going on?
What can we do?
What’s that noise?
Where is ….. ?
What they need though is not answers, but someone who can hold their hands and ensure safety as they try to come up with their own answers. Just now, as I am writing this post, he hears the noise coming from the kitchen. It’s his daddy making some fries. He invites me to look around and discover what is going on. As I raise him up so he can explore, he tries to name the food. Some he doesn’t know yet. But again, he gives it a try. He guesses. Some he gets right. The ones he doesn’t know the name, he invites me to share what I know. He smells the food. He says yummy. He asks for some. He tastes it and say it is delicious. This all seems so ordinary for school standard, but for a child it is exploring and enjoying the exploration time. It is developing his senses and processing the knowledge available to him through them.