What Did You Learn In Unschooling Today?

Daughter and I had breakfast this morning, and she asked me some random addition questions. “Dad, how do you make twenty-seven?” It turned out she was thinking about a series of dance moves her Kathak classes had introduced, in which a group of nine turns is done three times. Her teacher had only shown the first two repetitions, so there was some confusion in her mind.

We worked it out; I was inspired to play some more with groups of nine, so we began adding up columns of 9s. All the fun of early math tricks started to come back for me — add up the digits of the sum of any group of nines, and they always add up to nine; etc., etc., etc. We kept adding nines together and exploring what the results looked like. Eventually I drew a 9×16 matrix on a piece of paper and filled in each cell as she counted up to 144.

She asked for some other numbers, and we played with 5s and 3s, examining the patterns they created as their sums built up. It was a fun way to prolong our breakfast.

Eventually she finished her oatmeal, and asked me to do more numbers. And I said, “I’ll give you a rhythm lesson.” She responded, “I don’t want a drum lesson now!” and I said, “Not drums. Rhythm and numbers.”

Whereupon I started showing her Reinhard Flatischler’s “TA-KI” and “GA-ME-LA” syllable groups.

We sat facing one another in two chairs. I said, “I’m going to say some magic rhythm words, and you say them back. The first word is TA-KI. Try it.”

She did. So we traded groups of recited TA-KIs back and forth for a while until she was comfortable with them. I began patting my knees on the first syllable of each TA-KI, and she imitated me happily.

Eventually I said “Great! The second rhythm word is GA-ME-LA. Try it!” and we repeated the process.

Then we started mixing up the syllables, while patting our knees on the first syllables of each “word.”

TA-KI / GA-ME-LA = 5 beats, accented 2+3

TA-KI / TA-KI / GA-ME-LA = 7 beats, accented 2 + 2+3

TA-KI / TA-KI / TA-KI / GA-ME-LA = 9 beats, accented 2 + 2 + 2 + 3

GA-ME-LA / GA-ME-LA / TA-KI = 8 beats, accented 3 + 3 + 2

She was getting it! While there were frequent glitches in the knee-patting, she recovered nicely.

Eventually we decided to do patty-cake. She really took the initiative at this point, deciding which syllable groups should have knee-pats, which should have patty-cake claps, and which should have spoken syllabic recitation. At this point I was just along for the ride.

The last few minutes were spent jamming on an 11-beat sequence, divided 3 + 3 + 3 + 2:


She decreed that we would pat knees for each of the GA-ME-LA groups, but not recite; on the final TA-KI, we’d clap each other’s hands and speak the “word” out loud. There we stayed for multiple repetitions, gaining confidence and competence.

Eventually we stopped and went upstairs, where she got dressed and ready for the next part of our day.

Which was spent in the woodshop. We’ve been making a stringed instrument together, and today was to be devoted to using my newly acquired drawknife for the shaping of the third tuning peg. The previous two had been very time-consuming, requiring chisels, surforms and a disc sander to achieve the right shape. But this tool, terrifying though it looks (a 10-inch knife sharpened to a razor edge in the hands of a six-year-old?), is designed beautifully. Harming one’s self is virtually impossible, since holding the handles prevents the blade from getting near arms, fingers, wrists or any body part.

And she loved it. “Dad! This is a wonderful tool!” She didn’t want to stop removing wood, and her hands grew steadily more intelligent with each stroke. “Can you give me some other pieces of wood so I can practice some more with the drawknife? Look! I’m getting to be really good at drawknifing!” (a wonderful verb, I think).

And soon the tuning peg was shaped correctly; a little rounding on the disc sander and it was just about the same shape as the others, which had taken easily four times longer to make. Sometime later this week we’ll finish stringing her “tar,” and start lessons.

And then we got on our adult-and-kid tandem bike and had a long ride, including a visit to Mom at work, a trip to the library, lunch, an ice-cream cone, Daddy getting a cappucino, a playground visit and a return home about four hours later.

A good day of homeschooling.

7 Jun 2011, 10:21am
by Srikanta

Warren, this sounds like so much fun!

This is such a fun way of learning many things at a time, since the underlying principles are the same! Inspiring and very heart warming:-)

PS: Vijaya will tell you who I am, in case you are wondering!


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