Playing around is serious business

a young artist at work

My brothers and I were homeschooled on the shores of beautiful Birch Lake Saskatchewan, by our creative, idealistic and well educated parents. In our house there was no TV, piles of books (and weekly trips to the library); our toys and other materials were chosen in order to stimulate creativity, and constructive activities, such as paints and paper, wooden blocks and Lego bricks. There was no curriculum to follow, but the only activities available were educational… so we were always learning even though we did not realize it. We were encouraged to be self motivated and self determined, and for this purpose our parents allowed us to choose to attend the small town school if and when we wanted to.

My brother, Lief, chose to go school for kindergarten and grade one, mostly for social reasons I suspect, but he did well academically as well. He decided to take his grade 2 year off, and spent the vast majority of that year playing with Lego. The teachers were all surprised when he returned to grade 3 the following year and tested at grade level in all subjects except math…in which he was a full 2 years ahead of his classmates who had dutifully attended class through all of grade 2!

This article explains why that actually makes sense. It also includes many insightful ideas for promoting playful inquiry and inspiring focused learning in almost every other core subject.

Click on the link to view this cool article: 12 Unexpected Ways to Use Lego in the Classroom


Image retrieved from February 5th 2016

8 thoughts on “Playing around is serious business

  1. Tahza

    I was lucky enough to attend a now-defunct dewey-type school, the North Country School in Alberta. The greatest benefit of the school was that it taught me to learn pretty much anything; I have exploited this skill handily in my life so far. I use the methods, insofar as I understood them, to encourage my children’s interests. I am strongly considering home schooling my eldest kid, as he is highly individualistic and intelligent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nissa Shiell

      I think this the direction that public education is taking… At least in the rhetoric of the academics who write our text books! This is what I call inquiry based,child centred, learner directed, constructivist education 😊 It is my mission to bring these concepts into the classroom in combination with a bit more structure and oversight in order to meet curriculum requirements

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sherronb

    It’s a bit frightening for those in the ‘business of schooling’ (notice I did not say learning), to acknowledge the success of un-schooling. How could Lief be two years ahead in Math when he didn’t even know what the outcomes were? Hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nissa Shiell

      I am not entirely in favour of Un-schooling (I did choose to send my own kids to school). Although my early learning experiences where very positive, and provided me with the confidence and curiosity to figure out almost any course of study I have undertaken, there where gaps in my learning. For example, I never did spend any time playing lego, and I managed to avoid math as much as possible, as result my math skills are not fantastic. That said, I think there is tremendous value in encouraging and allowing kids to play, to explore and to inquire… with this as a foundation of our learning theory I do believe that we can support learners to achieve their best outcomes.


  3. Syd

    Haha I love this. I believe in unschooling and wish it was feasible for me to stay home and facilitate learning for our daughter now. One morning I was trying to get her up for school and was greeted with a terrible whine,”School is the worst part of my Life!” she groaned, so I let her stay home. My only qualifier was no screen time. She spent the day listening to a podcast version of the Odyssey and drawing pictures of the stories and Greek heroes. She’s right by the way. School is the worst part of her life right now and that is awesome cause her life is pretty great!

    Liked by 1 person

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