Description: When you were a kid, did you enjoy activities when you were forced to do them? Do you think you experienced deep learning during forced activities? Did you enjoy and find meaning in an activity if you do it mainly to avoid punishment? Did you appreciate and benefit from the process when your primary motivation for an activity was a (good) grade, certificate, diploma, degree, money, status, etc.? Or, did you truely enjoy and learn through an activity which you freely chose with no concern about the consequence?
How about our kids? Most of our kids spend their days in a highly-structured, forced environment. That is, they are required to do things, most of the time. Often, these activities are controlled by extrinsic motivation (rewards, punishment, competition, etc.). One potential consequence is that our kids pay more attention to end results than to the learning process itself. They may not enjoy the process or remember the content. This would undermine true learning and intrinsic motivation. Since they are so much concerned with the outcome, they might even try to shortcut the process to the extent that their moral values are compromised. [references below]
This summer free school is an attempt to balance this situation by offering sessions consisting of open-structured and kids-directed play time (just like a play date for younger kids). We will have some toys and materials and encourage the kids to use any of them. However, we try not to prescribe what and how they do with (or without) the things available to them. The focus is the kids' intrinsic motivation, which is one of the most important components in life-long learning for kids and adults alike.
One might wonder whether kids will be able to learn what adults want/expect them to learn through play. For example, we want them to learn moral values, such as honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, and compassion. Rather than forcing our kids to learn these through external motivation or "teaching" "moral literacy" (e.g., memorizing and blindly following rules), we try to provide opportunities in which the kids learn and eventually internalize the ability to act morally. This will take time and require patience. But play time will naturally involve a lot of opportunities for us to address these points and encourage the kids to deal with them on their own [very interesting examples in George Dennison's book, listed below]. For example, when they are absorbed, kids (and adults too) may occasionally forget moral values. When we observe such a moment, we will address the problem. Often, we may simply demonstrate desirable behaviors by ourselves (e.g., putting things away by ourselves). We may also verbally point out potential consequences of a certain action or what other kids would feel as a result of the action.
Facilitators: Sachiko & Nobo Komagata. We will have our seven-year-old daughter in the group. We would be happy to discuss any aspects of the summer school with parents. Parents and others who share and/or are curious about our values are invited to join us as co-facilitators. This might enable us to extend the duration of the summer school in the future.
Contact: Through the contact page
Possible additional activities (to be discussed and arranged, depending on the interest):