Monday, May 6, 2013

Stealth Schooling - Bait, Hook, Reel, Release

Whether I'm teaching my advanced preschoolers or my own children, I have always believed that so much of what a child learns can be introduced softly, allowed to play through their minds, gaining meaning and understanding, rather than slammed hard in a pressure situation resulting in a right/wrong test. 

This belief is one of the reasons I was drawn to homeschooling in the first place. 

Now, that philosophy and practice has been given a term that I think is very appropriate...stealth schooling.


My oldest son is gifted,  along with some of the preschoolers I have and am teaching, and especially with these children, once their interest is caught in a subject, then it's an exciting voyage of discovery. 

A LOT of our learning is done through play and usually at their instigation. I was describing my process last evening to a client and said I basically begin to dangle concepts around them, personalizing them as much as possible, because children are naturally self-focused:

  • "Wow, you have a blue jacket. Blue in Spanish is AZUL."
  • "You have 1 leg and 1 more leg, you have 2 legs. 1 and 1 is 2, 1+1=2."
  • "I wonder what that word is. Oh, it's AND, A-N-D spells AND. That's a good word. Very useful. Like...I want dinner AND dessert. Do you like dessert?"

It's a blanket of concepts that gently settles around them until they are ready to pick up a particular thread to follow in their own manner and time. 


At some point, one or more of the children's interest and fascination will get caught by a specific concept and they will instigate instruction. They will ask questions, incorporate the concept into their play, try to explain the concept to other children, and actively seek knowledge and experiences pertaining to it.

The KEY is to be present and aware in the children's play and learning so that those pivotal moments of leaps in cognition are readily identified. I continually evaluate the child's depth of interest and if the concept is one they truly wish to explore further or just have a passing question about.


Instruction is the tether to the teacher, the line. A good teacher knows that it is a give and take, a dance to keep the child interested and involved so they don't abandon a concept due to boredom, frustration, being challenged beyond their capabilities or getting hurt emotionally through right/wrong instruction. It is a dance of exploration and instruction along with down time for thoughtful contemplation and review, in time to the child's learning rhythm. As the child's understanding of a concept matures, more instruction is used at the back end than the front.


In a fishing analogy, landing the fish would be mastery for the child, and once taught, we let them move on to be fascinated by some other enticing concept or to use their new knowledge to scaffold to the next higher level. They move on, with greater knowledge and experience, to build upon what they now know.


For instance, Spanish colors and counting was instigated in the ball pit this week.

As I mentioned, I randomly point out colors in Spanish. No direct instruction, just BAITING.

We all were in there (yeah, it's that big), and one of the girls held up a ball and asked how to say purple in Spanish and the other held up a red one and asked the same with enthusiasm. HOOKED! SO, that's how we began Spanish instruction on colors.

The REELING began. They kept holding up different colors of balls for me to identify and they repeated the color after me. After a while, I started calling out colors in Spanish and they had to find one that color. If they held up one that was a different color, I simply said the correct name and the child would continue searching. 

As it progressed, I scaffolded the learning to asking them in Spanish, to find a specific color. They knew what I was requesting, and it was an easy translation. If you asked outside of the context, they couldn't tell you what "¿Dónde está una bola roja?" meant, but again, it was stealthily getting new Spanish vocabulary onto their radar.

Eventually, one of the girls came to me with her arms full of balls and asked me to count them in Spanish, so we did, and then that was the new game. 

They had heard the words before, as I randomly speckled their environment with them, so it wasn't a totally new concept or NEW words. Simply through exposure, much of the basis for this concept had been absorbed, so we are just neatly aligning information they already had available, and filling in any holes, to create a finished concept.

I imagine by the end of the month they will have it pretty much down through their own explorations. Then they'll move on to some other fascinating subject.

I think that is one of the things the school system does incorrectly. They present children with a new concept and expect them to get it through direct instruction in a specific time frame designated by an adult.

Learning is a process, and that process and it's time frame is different for each child.  

For more information on Stealth Schooling, please check out the great blog posts at
tags: stealth schooling, stealth, teaching, instruction, preschool, curriculum, homeschool, homeschooling, blog hop, 

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