Show, don’t tell

Let them discover the weight of things

Let them discover the weight of things

Whenever I read a book about writing it says the same thing; ‘show don’t tell’.

That’s all very well and good but I wish they’d show me what they mean rather than telling me!

I tried to do that in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’; tried to show through story how home schooling can work within a family setting rather than just telling like I did in the first book. It’s not an easy task but I’m hoping I might have managed it in places.

We need the same with education.

This is one of the fundamental flaws in traditional schooling. It generally just ‘tells’ kids about the real world. It rarely ‘shows’ them.

The ‘real’ world is what goes on outside the school gates. What goes on in the classroom is just a representation of it. Sometimes a dull, dreary, throat gagging representation of it so obscured by targets, tables and bureaucracy the real world is unrecognisable.

But I didn’t want to start ranting on about the system here. What I wanted to say was that through home educating, or any time you spend with them, you have a wonderful opportunity to SHOW your child the world, rather than just tell them about it.

You can show your children what real numbers look like, what real quantities look like, what weights feel like, time time passing, and what metres are when you walk them. You can show them so many mathematical concepts, that in schools are just represented by symbols that mean nothing to a young child, by physical means; how to divide something up (a bag of sweets or a cake) how to multiply (sit in the park and use the stones), what measurements we use in the real world, for what. And it’s EXPERIENCING these concepts by being shown that develops real understanding learning.

Don’t just tell them science SHOW them. (Lisa’s got some great ideas on her website here). Don’t just tell them about history, experience it through museums, field trips, investigations, discussions and even films and programmes, which although a representation have more impact than just being told. Same with geography, places, people, communities, settlements, etc., get out and explore.

And involve them as much as possible in all the ways we use language and enjoy stories together, communicate in whatever form – most particularly through conversation, and they will really see how valuable language is, what it can do for them and want to unlock the secret of those symbols for themselves, whether written, typed or text. Don’t be conditioned into thinking they have to write and read really young. They have to understand the point of language first and then they’ll want to use for themselves.

And through all this showing they’ll have a rich experience and understanding of how the real world works and be well equipped to put it into its symbolic form when the time comes to represent it for more academic purposes perhaps.

Home education, or any time you spend with your kids out in the real world – school holidays included, gives you the chance to show your kids this wonderful world and it is after all the real world that matters, not the one that’s represented in the classroom.

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4 thoughts on “Show, don’t tell

  1. Absolutly! In the real world children want to know – they ask. In the classroom they mostly sit and wait for the bell to ring to be let out into the real world.
    We spend lots of time outside finding out about histoy through to art and it’s fun!
    Thank you for another wonderful post.

  2. Hoorah! for your clear common sense thinking. You are SO right when you say the real world is what education is about. Why lock our kids in school away from it? If we feel we have to send them there, filling in their gaping world-shaped hole is our joyful pleasure when they are released.
    Beautifully put as always Ross. Thank you for your spirit lifting words.

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