Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy (Learning) Days

I woke up this morning thinking about Happy Days. Remember Happy Days? Fonzie, Richie, Ralph the Mouth, and Potsie. Potsie was my favorite. Maybe it was because everyone always made fun of him. Maybe because he seemed quieter than the other characters. Maybe I just liked hearing him sing. I don't know. I just had a soft spot for him.

I've come to realize there are a lot of instances in my childhood where I learned valuable lessons that set me on the path to homeschooling and eventually unschooling. Every once in a while, they pop up in my memory, offering me a flash of inspiration. This morning, I was thinking about an episode from when the gang was in college.

Potsie was having trouble in a biology (anatomy?) class. He couldn't remember details of the different systems and the professor taught with threats, belittling and scare tactics. Potsie thought he was too stupid to understand these complex biological systems and questioned whether he should even be in school at all. That's when Fonzie stepped in. Fonzie showed him how to use his gifts to help him in his studies. Potsie passes the big test, but the teacher accuses him of cheating. Fonzie and the class show the teacher how Potsie used his gift of song to pass.

What I love about this episode is that it shows there are many ways to learn subject matter. Potsie couldn't learn in a traditional way, but through his own creativity, he could compose a song to help him remember. I know I always learned best when I could use my artwork in an assignment. Copying a picture and labeling the anatomy of a cricket, illustrating the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, making a diorama of a California gold prospector (which actually earned me a low grade because I forgot to write about the Gold Rush); activities like these were all interesting to me and I remember them to this day.

Early in homeschooling, I always tried to use my children's interests to help them learn. Whether we built models out of food, sang along to classical music with funny lyrics (Beethoven's Wig and Disney's Silly Classical Songs), or simply incorporated dinosaurs into the curriculum, I tried to help make the subjects relate to my children, instead of making my children relate to the subjects. I'm such a Potsie.

You can see the Pump Your Blood scene here.

3 comments:

Stephanie said...

Great post! It's sad that so many students belittle themselves, feeling "stupid," because traditional teaching methods don't work for them.

Susan Gaissert said...

I love this post! And our family loves Happy Days. My husband and I both watched it in its prime, and we watched it with our daughter on DVDs. Be a Potsie!

Inner Elder said...

I think when you learn by these "creative" methods, the learning sinks in to stay. I remember states and capitals because of the product map a very wise teacher had us do in 5th grade. Good for you, Potsie! Love, Mom

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