Playing and Learning

I have been thinking a good deal about playing and learning.  At two back-to-back conferences, I have spoken on this topic, so my musing continues.

Plato was perhaps the first to say that children should learn by playing. By compulsion you might make a child move through certain schooling steps, but that learning will seldom be permanent. I think experience shows Plato was right; our experience and recent research also tell us that children are not playing as much as they used to, and are perhaps trading away some important benefits and delights in exchange for… more screen time.

Here is a brief 13 minute video in which I recap what the research shows and what we already know.  What will we do to make room once again for play?


The Liturgical Classroom, Virtue and Renewal of Education

Can the liturgical tradition of the church, and associated practices help revitalize teaching?  That was the contention of James K. A. Smith’s book Desiring The Kingdom and also the book he co-edited entitled Teaching and Christian Practices.  Educator Jenny Rallens (The Ambrose School, Boise ID) has spent the past three years working to employ the insights of these books in her teaching of 5th and 8th graders, and has indeed revitalized her classrooms.  One way I know this, is by means of the five minute clip (in the video below) of her 5th graders discussing Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring.  Another way I know this is by watching her teach other teachers, and by numerous conversations that confirm that she is wise beyond her years.  Jenny was classically educated throughout her life, from grammar school to high school to college.  Now she is pursuing a master’s at Oxford University where she is studying the classical concept of memory in education.  If you are a teacher, you will be richly repaid for watching and contemplating the presentation below.  This presentation was given at the recent Alcuin Retreat for educators sponsored by the Society for Classical Learning.

Recovering Leisure (Schole) in Education: The Video (Part 2)

Those readers interested in the concept of schole (leisure, restful learning) may enjoy this video presentation I gave on the topic a few months ago at Providence Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  If you like the content, then you are really liking the book behind it: Leisure, The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.  If you don’t like it, well then I did not do Pieper justice.  In either case get this book by Pieper.  My presentation is divided into four video clips of about 15 minutes each.  Special thanks to Ron Jung, headmaster at Providence Academy.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Education in Wonder and Curiosity

studying a bug









Josef Pieper in his book Leisure The Basis of Culture says that education (philosophy and poetry for that matter) begins in wonder.  Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain in their new book, The Liberal Arts Tradition, also note that in the classical tradition, education moves from wonder to worship to wisdom (the three W’s of classical education).  Can a student truly be a student if she is not compelled to wonder at the startling world into which she was born?  A. G. Sertillanges (in The Intellectual Life) says,

Every intellectual work begins by a moment of ecstasy; only in the second place does the talent of arrangement, the technique of transitions, connection of ideas, construction, come into play. Now what is this ecstasy but a flight upwards, away from self, a forgetting to live our own poor life, in order that the object of our delight may live in our thought and in our heart.

Now by ecstasy, Sertillanges is appealing to the literal meaning of the Greek word ecstasis, which means to be lifted up and out of the ones “station” or the place where one is fixed, standing. Children are naturally set to wonder and delight in truth, goodness and beauty–and they are easily cultivated to continue in wonder.  Do we really have a student, if he is not still wondering at the cosmos?  The Latin studium (from which student is derived) means eagerness, zeal, enthusiasm, even fondness and affection.  We could argue that without zeal and affection for truth, goodness and beauty, without love for the lovely–a student cannot truly be a student.

For what it is worth, I explore this theme in the following webinar, recorded and available here: Education in Wonder and Curiosity Webinar



The Great Conversation of… Math

Bill Carey is a Latin educator, math educator (Ad Fontes Academy, VA) and computer programmer (geospatial engineer).  He has always loved both math and Latin, and is one of the few people I know who can relate Latin to computer programming without hesitation.  As a fifth-grader, he was taught Latin by his father (an attorney and part-time Latin professor), and went on to UVA to study classics, but also a good bit of mathematics.  His unique blend of Latin and math make him a rare, refreshing  human being and educator.  I will be posting several more clips of my interview with him, but enjoy this first clip in which he talks about entering the great conversation of math.