September 2012

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Last night we were reading Pippi Longstocking. We’d tried it about a year ago and Astra wasn’t very keen. This time round she loves it.

We’re reading the chapter where Pippi tries out school, so she can get a Christmas Holiday. ‘Fair’s fair!’, she says. The teacher fires questions at her. ‘What’s 7 plus 5?’. Pippi remonstrates the teacher for not knowing such a thing, but Astra wants to give me the answer, so I pause. She starts to work it out on her fingers, then remembers she doesn’t have enough. ‘How do I do it?’, she asks. Andy suggests a method, which Astra gets straight away. 7 minus 5 is 2, so then you can add the two fives together, and then add on the 2. WOW, she says with delight.

Next, the teacher asks, ‘what is 8 plus 4?’. Subtracting 5 doesn’t work for this one, so I suggest a different approach. What is 4 made of….. ‘Oh, I see’, said Astra. ‘Yes, two 2′s, I can do that, hang on….12!’.

But my favourite part, she then says, ‘I know that 4 is made of two 2′s because it’s like a square, isn’t it? You have two points here, and two points here, and it makes a square’, and she draws the points in the air and joins them up.

That is exactly why I love unschooling. That is a growing, deep understanding of numbers, developing at exactly the right pace for Astra, because she is setting the pace. She understands ’4′, not as a number in a sum to be solved because she’s been told to solve it, but as a part of her world, connected to tangible things.