KONOS Teaching Methods... The 5 D's of Learning:
DO... DISCOVER... DRAMATIZE... DIALOGUE... DRILL
In response to the current problem of lowered academic proficiency, there is a trend in education that is a departure from traditional educational practice. The trend is toward introducing abstract learning concepts at an even earlier age. The assumption is that, by introducing certain abstract concepts earlier to children, those concepts will be learned better. But earlier does not equal better. Head Start and other pilot projects have demonstrated this. Children have not become better readers by introducing the alphabet earlier, they have not used mathematics better by introducing drill cards earlier, and they have not become better writers by completing language workbooks earlier.
While agreeing that older children today are less proficient in abstract skills than in previous years, the KONOS solution to this problem is different. We choose to raise the age of abstract skill development instead of lowering it and to use these earlier years to provide more concrete, real-life, hands-on, multi-sensory experiences. Providing concrete experiences with much manipulation of tangible objects over a prolonged time in a real environment is the only demonstrated way to develop abstract skills.
When Carole's son, Carson, was three-years-old, he was learning the concept of the number 5 by setting the table with five spoons, five forks, five knives, five plates, etc. Later, when he was introduced to the symbol 5, it had real meaning. At the same time, Carole's five-year-old son was comprehending the meaning of addition by manipulating match box cars. Although he could not perform on command 5+4=9, and he was still referring to tangible objects like cars, blocks, or fingers when he made his calculations, he understood the concept of addition. Eventually, children wean themselves away from concrete experiences to abstract thinking.
KONOS is a hands-on curriculum filled with concrete activities to do. Our curriculum puts life into learning through experiential activities. We have admittedly overemphasized experiential learning in hopes of bringing the educational "see-saw" back in balance. While we do subscribe to the necessity of seatwork and drill work, we do not consider these to be the major emphasis of true education.
We believe that a concept must first be understood to be mastered. Any child can memorize. Since he enjoys repetition, he will easily recite whatever he is assigned - the alphabet, math drill cards, or The Declaration of Independence. The question is not whether a child can memorize proficiently. The question is whether by doing this he gain mastery of a concept.
Consider the following examples. By memorizing the chronology of presidents, will the child better understand what a president is? By memorizing the Twenty-third Psalm, will the child better understand the relationship between a shepherd and the Lord? By practicing fraction drill cards, will be better understand the concept of fractions? True understanding of a concept prepares the child for mastery; mastery (i.e. memory and other refinement skill) does not promote understanding. The development of true understanding requires active, personal, mental involvement such as imagining, generalizing, comparing, and evaluating plus time to do all these things. The child needs freedom to explore his environment.
While baking with Jessica, Jason, at five years of age, discovered fractions by measuring volumes of flour. His response was, "Oh, I see, 4/4's equals a whole cup and 3/3's equals a whole cup." This did not mean, however, that Jason had mastered fractions. He merely understood the concept, but the mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division would come later. Education is more than merely learning information; it is the development of critical thinking skills, true reasoning ability. This is why KONOS includes activities conducive to discovery techniques. We encourage the child to figure things out on his own.
While studying the character trait of Attentiveness, we visit the zoo aviary to observe birds, being attentive to their distinctive beaks and feet. The children reasoned that birds with short, fat beaks eat nuts and grains, whereas birds with long, skinny beaks usually eat fish. In the Patience Unit when making bakers' hats, we could have merely demonstrated to our children how to make a baker's hat.. To be more challenging, we could have given them a pattern for making their own baker's hat. But wanting to stretch their reasoning muscles, we showed them a picture of a baker's hat and asked them to figure out how to make one.
Does it take longer to teach in this way? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Dictatorships are always more efficient, but they do not produce creative, reasoning people. They stifle creativity and reasoning.
Children do not soon forget Daniel Boone, if they have donned a coonskin cap and tracked animals while studying westward expansion, or Thomas Jefferson, if they have worn a white wig and written parts of the The Declaration of Independence with a quill. And blindness becomes a reality after a day spent blindfolded and writing in Braille. To live it is to remember it.
After a child has read a particular work, his ability to recreate that work through drama fosters several skills. First, it tests his memory of what was read with all its details. Second, it tests his ability to communicate effectively what he read to another person. And, third, it tests his understanding of the meaning of what he read as he adds inflections, emphasis, gestures, and dramatic actions to enact the story. Dramatizing not only allows the child to visualize what he has just read, but it reinforces the meaning and understanding of it as well.
Certainly parents, not textbooks, are the best teachers. KONOS helps parents talk effectively with their children during activities. Dialogue internalizes truths while strengthening family relationships.
If homeschooling parents merely make and grade their children's assignments, without dialoguing and discussing with their children, how can true knowledge be imparted? The goal of Christian education is to train the heart as well as the head. It is through the dialogue between mentor and pupil that both head knowledge and heart knowledge are imparted.
Many homeschooling parents today are opting to be mere graders of their children's school work. Others, farther down the road, consider themselves tutors of their children. But the real goal of homeschooling parents should be to mentor and model to their children. The distinction between a tutor and a mentor is this: a tutor teachers through a casual relationship, instructing the student in head knowledge and occasionally challenging him with questions; a mentor, on the other hand, models rather than teaches through an intimate relationship, rather than a casual relationship, and shares himself as he gives counsel for the head as well as the heart by asking challenging questions.
Too many parents are obsessed with the amount of facts their children can spew forth and how many workbooks they have completed, rather than their ability to think, reason, and discern. Dialogue builds thinking, reasoning, and discernment. Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered Minds, claims, "Conversation builds the executive brain." Certainly our children are worthy of executive brains.
KONOS crystallizes learning through games like "Guess What King I Am" in the Obedience unit, service opportunities like reading to the elderly in the Patience unit; creative expression projects like publishing a newspaper in the Honesty unit; and show-and-tell nights like the culminating Medieval Feast in the Obedience unit. While having fun, children learn, practice, and best of all, retain.
When we began homeschooling, we encountered many homeschooling parents who related their daily routine to us. We were astounded to find a great number of homeschoolers who went on field trips every other day. They had one experience after another. While KONOS is a proponent of experiential, hands-on learning, it is clear that experiences without wrap-up are nothing more than confusion or a hodge-podge of learning.
Jessica recognized this first-hand when, as a public school teacher, she had an opportunity to take part in the initiation of a hands-on, experiential science program in the public school where she taught. She felt this program was the answer to the children's lack of understanding of physical science. After teaching the course for four months, she was ready to pull out her hair. It finally dawned on her that, while the hands-on lab learning setting captivated the children's attention, the program had no built-in wrap-up, where data could be compared and contrasted. Without the wrap-up of drill experience loses its punch.