How easy it is to learn, as easy as it is to breathe. With no pressure, no expectations, no forcing studying of subjects children aren’t ready for or interested in.
Coconut has quite an academic bent, being excellent at both maths and literacy. She is drawn to literacy – loving written books, oral stories, always asking what signs mean, reading some words on her own. She also carts a notebook and pencil everywhere she goes and can often be found poring over it, doing her ‘writing’ and daydreaming. You can imagine how this makes my heart swell.
Maths, though, is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Building with Legos, noticing patterns, counting, using money, measuring, comparing sizes, shapes….your child is exposed to math whether you are consciously trying to do so or not! Coconut does like math games on the iPad, and she chooses to play the ones for 5-6 year olds, as the others have been outgrown. Maths is a casual thing to her, just something she knows how to do.
When she was two, she did her first oral addition. ‘This doll has one bed, and this doll has another bed. That is two beds in this dollhouse!’
This last week, she did her first oral subtraction – first I’ve noticed, anyway. TMD was off sick, and planning to sleep while the rest of us went off to Nana’s house to play. Coconut assigned meaning to placeholders, in maths speak. In real person speak, she used her fingers to represent members of the family. ‘This finger is Mummy, this is Mama, this is Snort, this is Coconut, this is Nana. There are five of us. But Mummy will stay home, so I will put this finger down and then there will be just four of us.’
This shit really struck me – look! She’s learning! She understands addition and subtraction, she is able to do math on her fingers and not just the iPad! I felt amazed. But thinking about it, why the surprise?
She is left to her own devices most of the time, follows her own interests. Of course I guide her, we talk about what we are doing in real life, I answer her multitude of questions. But maths is real to her because we use it. Maths is real because five of us were going to go somewhere, but only four went because one was ill. Girls often do well in maths and science in school until about puberty, though girls are often less confident in these subjects in general. I’ll leave speculative and researched reasons aside to say that in THIS house, in our life, girls live and breathe math and science and they triumph.
We can all make skirts, we can all read together, we can all build structures and do experiments together. We can do what we want, when we want, without being made to feel that we ought to do more, that we aren’t capable enough.
And when I look into my daughter’s eyes, when she casually points at words at age two and reads them, well, I confess I feel relief. Learning is happening, whether I am conscious of it or not. We can’t help it. I just hope the lessons, morals, and ideas we learn continue to be as amazing and productive as the years go on. It’s amazing to see their minds blossom, the connections they make on their own, the mathematical and literacy related leaps they make. I am always surprised by how much they know….which means I have to continue growing and learning and trusting.
Even if I have to use my fingers to count all the ways we develop.