Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Years ago I had a casual discussion with an earnest young elementary school teacher about homeschooling. Erin was probably a year or two older than Fiona is now. My acquaintance reacted fairly positively to hearing that we were homeschooling, but raised a few concerns. "I sure see how kids can learn incredible amounts just through following their own curiosities. I guess I'd just worry about quirky little gaps. Like ordinal numbers. That's a kindergarten and Grade 1 task. I'd worry that unless you made a conscious effort to make sure little tasks like learning ordinal numbers were covered, they might get missed. What if your child never got curious about that?"

I was pretty polite. I was new to it all back then, and I didn't find conversations like this tiring. "Well, Erin has certainly picked that up somewhere," I said, and cheerfully shrugged.

Here are are with child number four. Strangely, they've all picked up ordinal numbers somewhere. And now that I think about it (why am I still thinking about this, eight years later?) I am left shaking my head... how could a child not pick this sort of thing up somehow, somewhere, sometime?

Photo above. There's the calendar. It's fascinating to Fiona -- why wouldn't this nifty grid filled with letters and numbers intrigue a child who is delightedly discovering numeracy and literacy skills? Even better: it's the Community Birthday Calendar, and lists the birthdays of dozens and dozens of local people she knows. She climbs up on the bench in front of the desk, onto to desk, then steps over to the top of the filing cabinet and squeezes in behind the floor lamp each morning. She points out the date. "Thirteen today," she says. "So it's February thirteenth?" The next week she asks "do you say 'twenty-wonth' or 'twenty-first'?" She is fascinated by the relationship between cardinals and ordinals. And why wouldn't she be -- there are neat patterns to explore, new words to pair up with old words. Certainly not all kids will take interest in this at age 3 or 4, but how could a child miss out on this forever, not eventually find it interesting and worth knowing?

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