This afternoon, after many hours of lounging around, 8 yo asked if he can play on Word. Microsoft Word, that is. I said, yes.
First, he typed his name in all different fonts of all different sizes. When you are 8, using a font which contains animal glyphs is very amusing. Next, 6 yo had his turn. He took a while to type up his name.
Then, they moved on to Excel. They made some graphs from charts, played around with entering crazy data and seeing what it does to the graphs, changed colors and scale. Last, they played with shapes. They know how to insert clip art, and they put in many shapes. They played around with stretching arrows and banners, all the while laughing hysterically. Very simple things pass as entertainment these days.
I watched. I wondered about my mother, who had all these programs on her computer and never even tried to do any of the things my kids so freely experimented with. I thought about a fellow college student back from 2000, who could not make a simple table in Excel and produce a graph and blamed evil computers. She was a very conscientious student, probably also taught never to touch anything without permission. I thought about my college roommate, who whizzed her way around computer because her father let her and her brother mess with anything they wanted, as long as they did not put it into trash.
I thought about how being taught by experts takes away freedom to mess around. After all, they are experts, and the one way that they teach must be the holy grail. And if there is no expert, then there is no learning. I thought about a recent article I read on NYTimes about students dropping out of college to use seed grant money to work on their dream projects, even though they might not materialize into a financial investment. I thought how much they learned from experience.
I thought about my 2 yo in the 1 ft deep swimming pool for the past two weeks. She was just there because we had to kill half an hour while her brothers were taking swim lessons. I was not teaching her anything. She went from sitting on my lap to blowing bubbles in the water, getting her face wet, trying to swim and float and becoming fearless of water. I could have paid an extra hundred dollars for the teacher to give her an age-appropriate swim class, where they would teach her how to be comfortable in the water. I also watched another miserable 2 yo, whose mother did pay that money and who sat on the side of the pool, screaming the entire time.
At dinner, I got a lecture on Francs and Gauls and Clovis. I have not taught this and my facts are quite fuzzy. I have not required this as a reading. I have not told them: read about Francs, because that's what well-rounded education looks like.
I also did not tell them that Excel is fun.