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How People Learn

How People Learn

How people learn is of particular interest to parents and educators alike. For those who have studied how to learn, it’s evident that there are three distinct stages of learning. Those stages are known by different names, depending on what educational pedagogy you follow. To be sure, there are subtle differences between them, but the heart of the matter remains the same.

The Stages of Learning

Learning takes place in these stages:

  • Overview
  • Familiarity
  • Expertise

 

EducationClassical ModelCharlotte MasonUnschooling
1.      Overview1.      Grammar – Memorization1.      Collect1.      Extensive Exposure
2.      Familiarity2.      Dialectic – Logic2.      Connect2.      Feed Interest
3.      Expertise3.      Rhetoric – the Art of Persuasion3.      Compose3.      Fuel Passion

 

How It Used to Be

When I was growing up, “learning” – the expectation that we would fully understand something – went fast. To clarify, we were often shown a concept or explained once and then expected to “get it.

At least, I think that’s what happened. I’m not exactly sure.

We were expected to know the first thing because we’d already moved on to the next thing. Since it was assumed we all understood the first thing, kids who couldn’t keep up with all the new stuff moved into the slower groups—those who could keep up (or pretend that they could) were segmented into the upper level. The kids bumbling along but not as slow were placed in the middle level.

We all tried our darndest not to be relegated to the lower level.

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However, to kids, everything is new. They have little context about where to place all of the things they are learning. And kids are distracted (some more than others) by all the new things they are seeing, hearing, and feeling. For example, when you read a beloved childhood book to your child for the first time, you have associated memories. For your child, it’s the first point of contact.

Years ago, I heard Andrew Pudewa state that they most likely need it if your kid asks for help.

That was a paradigm shift for me since I grew up in a system where asking questions or needing help was frowned upon or showed weakness. In reality, when our children ask questions, they are trying to contextualize information and create a grid for new or unfamiliar information.

Why Learn About How We Learn?

When we understand how people learn, we can strategize our homeschool experience far beyond simply purchasing a curriculum. Of course, the curriculum is a piece of our overall strategy, along with nature studies, field trips, hands-on experiences, camps, community service, and more.

Also, knowing how people learn, and specifically how our kids learn, allows us to create a robust and dynamic homeschooling life that feeds the heart AND mind while doing all of the other necessary activities that educating humans require.

What to Expect When Homeschooling

Because we have a better understanding of how people learn, we can permit ourselves to go slower when needed. We adjust – cutting down on expectations or ramping them up as needed. We will come to expect questions and confusion – even occasional mayhem and frustration. Awareness that children will hit a point of “not getting it” allows that friction to be part of the process of learning instead of allowing frustration to mold our relationships or character.

So, what does this look like?

Let’s use learning how to knit as an example. These stages are the same if you are five years old or fifty!

Stage 1

Exposure to the tools and vocabulary of knitting: I need to learn how to hold the needles, position the yarn, “feed the yarn,” even roll the yarn into a ball, understand terms like “knit,” “pearl,” “cast on,” “cast off,” etc. I need to learn how to store my materials properly and practice the basics –like knit and pearl until they become second nature. I might find a knitting mentor, or call Gram, or watch YouTube videos, go to yarn stores, join Raverly or sign up for an online class or club as I gain exposure and an overview of what knitting is all about.

Stage 2

I am familiar with the terms in this stage, so I don’t have to look them up every time. I can easily practice casting on and knitting rows, pulling out, reading patterns, and gaining in my ability to knit with precision and care and follow directions, read patterns, and complete a small project with success. This is where friction often happens because the excitement of something new and novel has worn off, and you are not yet proficient enough to shake off mistakes. Re-working, tearing out work you’ve already done, looking up mistakes, asking questions, and problem-solving will get you through this stage.

Stage 3

At this stage, I begin to knit with some proficiency. Patterns or stitches are memorized, completing projects becomes second nature; consequently, I begin to modify or create original designs and perhaps even teach others to knit. This expertise allows me to delve into various aspects of fiber arts, adding other needlecrafts to my repertoire. I take joy in learning and modifying, doing, and adding to my knowledge base.

Application

Do you see how this goes?

You can apply it to Math or star gazing, cooking, or mechanics regardless of age.

Understanding that there are stages of learning and that friction is just a part of the process can make learning anything more enjoyable!

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