Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Living and learning -- another long post

I've had at least a dozen things I've thought to blog about this week, but apparently no time to actually do it. Been busy knitting, reading, watching movies, and visiting with friends. Not a bad trade.

We visited my grandmother in her new home at the assisted living/memory care facility on Monday. Her dementia/Alzheimer's has definitely progressed, but it was a pretty positive visit all things considered. She did say a couple of disturbing things, namely that she wanted her voice back, and why did we take it from her? And, was Puffer going to shoot her? But the moments passed, and she seemed to enjoy seeing the boys. We didn't stay for long because she didn't want to leave her room until she had the right toiletries for fixing her hair and makeup. But the director of the facility said she's made a few friends and does leave her room to eat and visit with them. My mom went back later after a trip to the drug store, and visited with her for about two hours, which is more than she's been able to do since October.

I finally finished the second baby hat I promised to a friend whose twins were born in November. I'm now working on another baby present for a friend due in March, and I want to start on my felted knitting/diaper bag soon. It's this pattern, but with pale green, teal, dark pink, beige, and taupe.

UberDad and I watched and enjoyed "Dangerous Beauty" one night. Good sexy, romantic drama with plenty of poetry and humor, and nothing too disturbing considering the subject is a 16th century courtesan who's eventually put on trial for witchcraft. The boys have been into Star Wars this week, which we've been borrowing one episode at a time from our neighbors. They really enjoyed the first and second episodes. Skipped the third, and tried to watch the fourth tonight, but they were distracted, and then the DVD got stuck for some reason.

We had a few friends over today to make valentines, and of course most of the time was spent playing outside on the trampoline and in the dirt. I went all the way out there for the first time all winter yesterday and discovered how much weeding needs to be done. My friend Mark, who's adopted the space as his own for the last two or three years, has been working on it, but I haven't been much help since last spring. It was so blasted hot last summer I couldn't stand it for more than 10 minutes at a time. And then I was inside on the couch with morning sickness all fall. The weather has been beautiful this week, so now I've added gardening back to my list of want-to-dos this spring.

Instead of blogging or napping this week, I've been reading a lot. Mostly from "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling," which has so many encouraging anecdotes and thoughtful insights. I've needed a little inspiration on the homeschooling/unschooling front lately, just to get my thinking in the right place again. The boys have been demonstrating their ability to learn with minimal help from me quite beautifully.

Puffer's been picking up the sounds of letters and giving me his own examples of words that begin with them, inspired by Trader Joe's alphabet cookies. He'd hold up a letter and come up with an original word for it, accurately. Also gave a couple examples of words that ended with a certain letter, asking if he was right, and he was. We've never sat down specifically to talk about the sounds letters make, it just comes up when there's context for it or it's on his mind. Been seeing similar things with numbers, in terms of measurement, addition and multiplication.

It's just fascinating to be able to get these little glimpses of him figuring things out -- because I know so much more is going on inside his head that I DON'T get to see. And even though I trust the idea of natural learning, it's always reassuring when evidence of the kind of "academic" learning that's expected of a child starts happening without any direct teaching effort. I don't try to direct my children toward these subjects -- but they can't help but be interested in them, because they are a part of REAL LIFE. Math is all around us, written language is all around us; children in our society cannot avoid either, unless they are locked in a closet with no one to talk to and nothing to look at.

John Holt was at first surprised at the apparent lack of intelligence among his affluent private school fifth-graders in the 1950s. "I came to feel...that it was fear, boredom, and the confusion of having constantly to manipulate meaningless words and symbols. I now see that it was that, but far more than that, the fact that others had taken control of their minds (his emphasis). It was being taught, in the sense of being trained like circus animals to do tricks on demand, that had made them stupid (at least in school)."

He goes on to share this thought-provoking insight:

"The most important question any thinking creature can ask itself is, 'What is worth thinking about?' When we deny its right to decide that for itself, when we try to control what it must attend to and think about, we make it less observant, resourceful, and adaptive, in a word, less intelligent, in a blunter word, more stupid... not the measure of how much we know how to do, but of how we behave when we don't know what to do. It has to do with our ability to think up important questions and then to find ways to get useful answers. This ability is not a trick we can be taught, nor does it need to be. We are born with it, and if our other deep animal needs are fairly well satisfied, and we have reasonable access to the world around us, we will put it to work on that world."

And now, lest you find me too serious, go stick your blog URL in this site.

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