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Vignette 17/52. Frames and a very annoying word.

Yesterday I wrote about my daughter’s artwork.

I put it up in my bedroom with a dinky magnet. It needs a frame. A frame would elevate it from that category of child’s artwork that you put on your fridge temporarily to part of your permanent collection that you would take with you to the next house.

A frame takes a random photo and makes it a beloved keepsake.

We brought back one frame that has a recent picture of the seven us. I had not owned a single frame before in our current home. Maybe because my whole living room frames a piece of jungle and it’s hard to compete with that.

To give a frame to something allows you to give it meaning by placing the contents within a boundary.

Beliefs are difficult to re-frame. The frames are often handed down like those ornate and heavy wooden ones that house an antiquated oil painting of that generic landscape. We put it up and forget why we are holding on to it. Something – tradition or custom maybe – tells us that we have to. There may be something worth holding on to in there but the frame in which it had lived just doesn’t work with our changing tastes so it’s time to re-frame.

For the last year, I have had to push back on old frames especially frames entered on a specific word.

“Academics.”

Parents ask me these questions the most:

What about the academic work?
When will you begin the academic work? _What about spelling and grammar? What about the math? _
What about social studies?
I hear you don’t do academics, how will they prepare for the real world?

If you have read my blog long enough, you know that I am obsessed with the meaning of words. What does “academic” mean?

From etymology online: Achademie, “the classical Academy,” properly the name of the public garden where Plato taught his school. And wikipedia: The name traces back to Plato’s school of philosophy, founded approximately 385 BC at Akademia, a sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill, north of Athens, Greece.

Putting aside for the moment that the glory of the Golden Age of Greece excluded women, slaves, and the poor, we should turn to their education and “academics.” Isn’t that the era when humanity made great leaps in science, math, logic, and oration? When learning was at its peak? What did it look like? There was emphasis on care of the physical body, learning through questions and dialogue, and multidisciplinary projects and experiments that were initiated by wondering about the world. To make a claim, you had to prove it through a logical argument. It was ok to be wrong because it helped others see things in different lights.

Did they do math sheets and workbooks? Were they tested for a grade or tested for knowledge because they wanted it in order to have a deep understanding of the subject matter?

Before the invention of mass and industrial schooling two hundred years ago, young people were taught how to learn, not what to learn.

What does an academic education look like now? When I ask most parents about their math experience in school, they speak of trauma and anxiety and a fear of math, yet most prefer and try to persuade me to inflict that pain on their children in the name of “academic” work.

It’s stunning.

When I am asked about teaching math, I want to know what do you mean? Where are you getting your information and research from because I can tell you specifically where I get mine.

I recently finished a Stanford University Professional Development Course on the new neuroscience, psychology, and research on teaching math in school. It recommends the exact opposite of what the traditional education system has been doing to our children in math and in school in general. We studied the difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset. (For more info, please check out the research of Dr. Carol Dweck or listen to this podcast.)

As a homeschooler, and accidental researcher, I watched and carefully observed my children for over a decade. What I saw and felt intuitively was confirmed in this course. During the course of writing my chapter for a collection on home education research, I found evidence in many texts and papers the correlation of true intrinsic and deep learning with slow education.

And what does the most current research show how one should learn the number patterns of the world , i.e. math? Slowly and with curiosity – excited by the challenge, and having a growth mindset.

To re-frame an old belief means that one has to make the conscious effort by re-learning through curiosity, and admitting they don’t know. Without this skill, Copernicus and Galileo would never had the courage to say the Earth isn’t in the center of the solar system. Alfred Wegener would not have pursued his theory of “plate tectonics.”

And as a woman, I would not have been able to become an academic.

Go figure.

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