This morning Joseph and I were having breakfast together while his brothers were upstairs getting dressed with Daddy. Joseph said "Mummy I've made a flower for you, it's got pollen in the middle" and showed me his 'Blueberry Wheats' creation!!
As he ate bits he talked about bees collecting pollen and making honey, and rearranged his cereal to make the same pattern with a reduced number of 'wheats'. I'm sure this would constitute Maths and Science if categorising were important to us but since telling Joseph or myself what subject he is learning won't make any difference to what he actually learns, we won't bother!
It got me pondering on the ways in which Joseph digests information. Bees are a hot topic at home at the moment, I guess it's because there are more of them about outside at this time of year. He also loves to eat honey, so he has some motivation for knowing a bit about them! Joseph doesn't just take something in, learn it and then keep this knowledge, rather he seems to test knowledge out in lots of different scenarios and via different means. Using bees as an example, Joseph takes part in such activities as,
Talking about honey, pollen and how bees collect it.
Watching bees and other insects buzzing around flowers.
Going to see the bee hives at Wildwood.
Pretending to be a bee buzzing around the house 'collecting pollen' to turn into honey.
Role-playing being a bee stinging people.
Watching YouTube videos of bees collecting pollen, and working in the hive.
Looking at books or pictures of bees or honeycomb.
If he's drawing or making things with play-doh he might create something related to bees (as with the breakfast cereal this morning) or he may pick up small, hard, sharp looking things around the house and say "this is a sting!" A role-play game he created yesterday involved me being an owl who needed to swoop down and catch the mice (Callum and Charlie) and then he (the bee) came along and stung them!
Joseph isn't being 'taught' about bees and doesn't seem to simply take in information about bees and add it to a 'store'. He uses what he is learning in an active way, looking at them, talking about them and even being them! He tests out the same element of understanding over and over again, through various means and then seems to incorporate it into a wider knowledge, for example what he knows about owls and mice. I assist, add information when it seems appropriate and help him to access the information he is interested in. He will ask the same questions over and over again, perhaps simply testing whether the answer is still the same! Often the questions shift but still require similar information, for example "How do bees get the pollen?" may become "Why do bees get pollen on their legs?" He wants to be actively engaged with the information he is seeking.
The chat at the breakfast table this morning made me think about the fleeting moments of learning that occur for Joseph. He doesn't sit down for an hour and learn about bees, he may just ask a question that leads onto another activity, or simply have a passing thought that he shares with me. Bees have been an interest for a couple of months now, and he is busily gathering information about them as he goes about interacting with the world. He has as much knowledge and understanding as he has sought or requested so far. When he is ready for more I'm sure he'll find it or request it.
This feels like a very natural and empowering way to learn, happily feeding his own fascinations.