Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: Learning

The Week’s Worth Of Learning

togetherWatching children learn is like watching magic happen. Eyes light up and turn round, smiles peak from behind temporary worried pouts and the lightness in the air is as perceivable as the smell of muffins we bake at night every now and then.

Math is not a challenge but a balancing and observation exercise, a tool you use to measure the world and decipher the wonder of it. In truth, it can be abstract too, but that comes after you’re so enticed with having learned the first steps that you want to keep on going to see more and connect more dots. You have to render your mind elastic, you have to trust that it will.

Brains are poised to learn if only we’d stop saying ‘I can’t.’ It is like building a barrier of sort. Our words become beliefs and with that we build walls that keep us from opening our eyes inward to the magic of learning. A chain is all, with links we keep adding as we go.

Different subjects are like exercises for the mind, they enable nimbleness. Older boy learns of knights and how they carved their place in history, little boy learn of fur trades and we trace paths on the map with our fingers to match the tracks of those who came to the wild country a long time ago.

SunriseWe learn of values that have kept people alive for thousands of years, we learn of what can compromise values and how no one is immune to temptation lest they make a shield out of understanding that the price in money for values trashed or forgotten is never an accurate equivalent.

Geometry is learning to use your eyes to peel off shapes drawn on paper and see their contour as plump as life would have it. And just like that, you open the door to algebra so that shapes become even more tangible and finding answers becomes a game. Everything is connected. A dance your mind seems to learn just like that. Fluid and purposeful, it’s the dance we’re all meant to learn at our own pace as long as we keep curious.

A few days ago we huddled in the back yard, the four of us, eyes stuck to a disappearing moon. An eclipse is a dance too, is it not? Bright and growing, the moon had us all under a spell. Then again, it was not just then, but on so many other nights when, during a pre-bedtime walk we were startled by the glow peeking from behind a hill.

Magic? Yes. Barely starting to comprehend the vastness of the world we’re part of should become the catalyst for wanting to know more. Children may not be able to say it as such but they know it and show it with every ‘why’ they ask. Not being handed answers for each every time they ask will have them venture on paths unknown.

FlyingLearning is building a raft in the back yard, and sewing sails and small pouches for journals that will come to be, and making a swing out of a piece of rope and some scrap wood, and flying high enough to have the butterflies in your tummy clump together not in worry but in discovering the surprise of the impromptu flight. Learning that you can laugh so hard you make the world laugh too.

Learning is why. Why are some black bears white and why does bacteria live everywhere? What does it take for people to understand why animals do what they do, how they see us humans and why are boundaries vital for both humans and animals? What happens when you cross them without knowing enough to be able to do so without leaving marks of destruction?

Midweek caught us chasing the sun in the countryside outside Kamloops for a few hours. We were given fresh rhubarb. Tart and red, straight from the embrace of territorial hornet wasps. ‘Mom, there are at least four and they circle all over, we are not going there!’ Boys declined rhubarb harvesting under such treacherous conditions.

sweetStalks came home anyway and a few hours later muffins with streaks of red and sour happened in our kitchen. One boy sliced and diced the rhubarb and the other spread coconut oil all over the pan. Sweet smells and mouthfuls of goodness followed. That is part of learning too.

To grow, to harvest, to peel and cook. To eat, to share to eat. Whose piece is bigger? What is greed? Do we all fall prey to it unless we remember there’s bigger rewards in gifting?

Who’s turn to do the dishes? That is learning to. To serve others just like they serve you, to show gratefulness, to know that togetherness is never reason for entitlement, but for humbleness in the face of so much being given to us through the presence of others. To learn to care.

Notes From Our School. Friday

20150824_153605 To say that we’re redefining the school concept, or rather searching to acquire knowledge the way we see fit, might sound conceited. It’s not with that purpose that we do this, but rather so that the boys can open their eyes. Hearts too, as you have to have both open and willing if you are to learn. And learn we have to, learn to live with grace and gratefulness. Learn to tie the stories of the world together so we can see the world in all that it is.

Today we talk about food. Why choose this over that, what is taste and why it is used by those who handle chemicals and colours to mislead us… ‘We have to eat with our brains’ I tell the boys and they tilt their heads. True, if we are to eat to live, I press on.

They like the challenge and the learning of unconventional matters that help choose our way as we go, saying no thank you to mainstream invites to indulge and siding with simplicity while at the same time learning that a ‘simple’ piece of food that nature creates is never simple, but the result of such mind-boggling biochemical processes it is but necessary to be grateful for each bite. And learn.

20150815_182852 It’s in the choices we make, with everything. With food, we can only make choices once we learn the taste of food and the value of each bite. Unaltered and ‘as is’, imperfect and yet complete, simple food as nature offers it is where eating starts. Science is there too and it is never repugnant but enticing.

We play the game of ‘What about…’ and the boys ask about processed foods that we all know are a silly compromise at times but without any nutritional value. ‘What about?…’ they keep on asking. I keep on answering nope every so often and they laugh. ‘But it says so on the package!’ they protest knowing the truth but enjoying the game.

To eat healthily is a mind-opening adventure. We eat with our minds, we eat with our hearts (would you ever eat the results of suffering or some chemical warfare that happened in the field where your food happened to be? ‘No Mom!’). We eat knowing that we’re never to bow to trends or marketing ploys, but stay true to needs and leave wants die of attention emaciation… They smile. Lesson ends with the eye glimmer that tells me they’re flying high, having learned things that make sense.

Next, I tell them, there’s something else to watch. A TED talk about taking care of those parts of ourselves that do not show. Today we talk about emotions, namely the ones that overwhelm us when we fail.

The lid of the white porcelain tea pot broke today because hurried little hands put it too close to the edge. Disaster! Little boy’s hand covered his mouth. Then came a sad pout. ‘You liked this pot, Mama. What now?’

Now is just the same with or without a porcelain lid. I am not tied to a while porcelain pot more than I am to some dandelion fluff. It’s not self-blame that helps us clean the white bits off the kitchen floor but the realization that mistakes happen. Blame is not the same with learning from our mistakes.

20150824_153714When you start learning, you fail at times. The boys nod; they know the feeling of emptiness and frustration that goes with it, as we all do. When you want to stomp your feet and be mean to yourself. Why would you, I ask? They think. Pause…’Because…’

Here is a place where we can say it as we see it. To admit to vulnerability is to find the place to grow from. And to understand others. Self-compassion for trying times. Whether you break a porcelain lid, or fail a test or or make mistakes of any other kind.

We pursue things that do not work out sometimes and that makes us feel inadequate, a flurry of sharp edges pushing against our soul… The boys’ eyes grow large. Smiles. You cannot turn back in time and erase mistakes, but you can try again with what you know. Because of a mistake, you know more.

I hope I can help them see that nobody’s expectation of greatness should ever make them think less of themselves. They are enough as they are, and if they believe that, they will keep on growing and following their heart’s call.

When you live, you make mistakes and you fail at times. What then? Where do look next? You draw a blanket of compassion from the shelf and wrap yourself in it. So you must put it somewhere on a shelf where you can reach it at any time. You or someone else will need it, we all do at times. Few of us have it handy. Few of us are willing to use it, or know how to…

It is a big subject indeed and we will go back to it. We are to get to know ourselves in learning. Reciting manuals and facts, achieving milestones so others can say ‘good job’ does little in the end if you’re not present to celebrate your feeling of having learned and the joy that comes with it. Learning with a purpose.

20150918_134456Next, little boy chooses piano class over science today (but can we do science on Monday, Mama?) and the sound of music, braided sounds from keyboard and from the boy experiencing the wonder of making it, start dancing around the living room. So it is, we love our school.

Big brother reads his own and then we talk it. It is about paradigms that help us move further or keep on being stuck. He already knows so much, but it is often hard to remember. His big smile and hug at the end will remind me of joy down the road when, our together adventure becomes overwhelming at times and we forget of paradigms and better ways to do it and get caught in spikes. Learning together becomes yet another facet of our bond.

Everything that’s worth doing and living becomes overwhelming at times. That’s how we learn. We admit to limitations, to being human, to being afraid and inspired, to follow calls only we can hear… To learn to say ‘I can.’

It’s been a good day. It’s past lunch. I make miso soup with thick kelp and soba noodles; we eat and talk. Taste and laughs and wonder. Learning is all, but it is never a paddock where we lock our thoughts at any time, but rather an endless array of fields and mountains where they can keep on running and dancing forever. Because, in truth, learning never stops…

Our School At Home And Beyond. A Glimpse

‘Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.’  Socrates

GrasslandsIt is not every day that I get to see a red-tail hawk swoop down for a midday meal in the grasslands. I had to stop for that one. And for the clouds that towered over the golden hills. It’s one of the most soothing landscapes I’ve even seen.

That is little boy’s classroom on the one day a week when he goes to Forest School. We sat in a circle in the middle of undulating dry grasses this morning, talked about snakes and owls and bugs, reviewed the things to do such as ‘wander far enough but not too far, know the number of whistles for this and that’, before the small feet peppered the dusty trail, following behind the teacher.

There is joy infusing our hug as I get ready to go on my way and little boy on his with the group.

20150915_105512Giggles, whispers, the trepidation of another day that brings learning through open eyes tasting the blue sky and the golden tall grasses that speak of dried-up lakes and hidden animal burrows. The land has stories to tell, it’s only fitting that we’d take ourselves and our children out here to listen.

It’s not in the books, not in the sitting upright and reminding your eyes to stay put on the word of the day. Not unless the word connects with the world you see with your eyes, the world you walk on and see transform from one day to the next, the smells that tell you learn to tell apart as you spend more time in places that you crawl through if need be to look at a bug, places you let crawl through you as reminders of life in its primal, must-see-or-else form.

worldsCome noon, I find my way back to the hills to pick up little boy. I stop a few times, it’s that beautiful. I breathe the place in: colours, smells, sun splashed lazily over velvety hills in the distance making them look like they are underwater. As if I am staring at algae-covered rocks in a stream. Two worlds in two. A world of many faces; ours.

This is what I want the boys to learn of in our school at home and in classrooms of hills and clouds.

That the world has mysteries we cannot see unless we bring ourselves close enough to it.

That everything has a key somewhere and as we get closer to understanding, we get closer to reverence, never away from it.

That we do not own the world, but are part of it. Conquering never works, gently prying the door open to knowledge, not vying for high marks and loud approval but the feeling of having understood a tinge more, that is what I dream for the boys.

Shelter to growThat they will learn reverence.

That they will be humbled by the richness of a handful of dirt and the secrets a leaf reveals as you hold it up against the sun.

That math and science are never the hated subjects, but keys to answering the whys we find as we go along.

That it is all a big picture with boundaries that keep on growing as our understanding of it grows.

Soft wallsThat the balance is fragile and our running to engage in rat races has nothing to do with balance but often leads to frantic days and connections lost, with ourselves first of all.

That school is never to be a place where we get farther away from ourselves so that we fit in, but a place where we get closer to knowing who we are, to affirming our thoughts and dreams, knowing as we go that the world has a place for each and every one of us, as we are. A place to be safe but bold, to wonder and let curiosity seep through. To help more thoughts grow.

Another hawk dances with the grasses. Another glimpse of life, death too, implied and not seen, and if seen, accepted as part of it all. Gracious, both side of it. The boys will learn this. They will learn that a glimpse is all. That we must take fully and give ourselves to it fully, that the glimpse is a gift repeating itself every day thousands of times.

skyThe side of the road is decorated in chicory flowers, as if the sky kissed the ground every now and then leaving marks of blue. Same fascinating colour, the reflection of the blue endless sky in small countless ones growing towards it, each holding the story of storms to come like delicate mysterious oracles. It is true.

The boys and I learned about it yesterday, and the amazement matched the mystery. Drawing blue petals on stalks on green, listening, asking questions, tilting their heads and blooming in almost incredulous smiles…

‘How do they do that, Mom? How do they know?’

DanceThat is what we will learn, and beyond. We will find ourselves privy to the conversation the earth has with the sky, we will have to be quiet enough to hear, keen-eyed to see, but mostly humbled enough to know that we are but another piece in the big puzzle called life, that we do not make sense without the other pieces.

That we are being given the opportunity to see it all, wonder and learn about it together is a gift as precious as life itself.

That is our dream school. We will only go as far as our gratefulness will take us.

Are We Afraid Of Learning For The Love Of It? We Shouldn’t Be

It is almost 10.30 pm, way past bedtime and the big boy has finally been peeled off his book and is now sleeping. Unless his mind races for a while, ruminating the stuff he’s been reading about… Ancient Greek history, today’s reading, complementing part of our history class today. Perhaps calling it ‘class’ is a tad forced now that it’s the two of us.

A month into it, we still love it, the learning together. Not a tinge of discomfort. I love the enthusiasm and wide eyes, he loves the multitude of things he learns every day and the challenges I carefully prepare for our daily journey.

There is no resentment over too much work. I do not do it on purpose, you see, I am not piling topics up just for the sake of it. I take cues. What can complement this and why add one more subject to the roster… which one? If there are questions about certain things during our dinner conversations, I make a mental note: to be added somehow to the learning.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing. A treasure and a privilege to acquire as we go. There is a lot to be acquired, a lot of dots to connects, a lot of connections to be made between bits that have been collected over the years… ‘Mom, did you know that so many words came from the Greeks?’ The meaning of this word and the next, once you know where they come from you know what they reveal, you can understand, not just memorize.

You can ask why and you learn to delight in finding the answers. It will not be easy all the time, but that’s where the beauty and the challenge lies. In carrying on for the love of it.

That is the gift I intend for my sons.

Yet once I step out of the home learning bubble, the world turns a few degrees colder at times, with what has now become the most often asked question about our homeschooling adventure.

‘Do you follow the school curriculum?’

When I say I do not, eyes grow big and uneasiness settles in like a dark cloud.

I tell of the wonder of learning based on what interests him, I tell of my wonder of seeing it all. I could tell of the slight apprehension that all worthy adventures have attached to them, whether you’re the guide or the guided (and these roles switch constantly, as I have come to know during my earlier teaching experiences), the humble nature of the guiding process itself when you immerse yourself in it fully, the expanse of all that learning-to-be. There is much to tell but many people stop at the school curriculum.

Guiding ourselves based on a curriculum can only take us so far and our children not so far, I believe. If they start losing interest because, as you and I know, a curriculum is a ‘one size fits all’ when learning is everything but, then what? Can we revive it every time and are we aware of it flopping?

There is nothing wrong with guidelines, and there is nothing wrong with curricula if they work for some children.  We have to be honest though, and apply critical thinking: do they truly work? I believe in seeing the spark in a child’s eye, curiosity satisfied and primed for more at the same time; I’d hold onto that for guidance, rather than hold onto a curriculum that might give me the feeling of a job done, when what I should be after is a job well done. Not just by my standards, mind you, but by of the ones who learn.

I am but a guide, grateful and humble and awed, all at once, by the steps children take to learn, by their joy of prying open the world with their minds… I am not sure if curriculum has any recommendations on that….

Thoughts?

The School Conundrum. Again

Morning todayThe trees in our front yard are raining leaves, swayed by the same gentle breeze that has been peeling off grey clouds from the hills that are now draped in a bright October sky. You cannot take this kind of beauty for granted.

I called the boys to witness the sight this morning. Fresh out of warm beds, pitter-pattering bare feet on the wooden floors, eyes and souls pried open by the carnival of nature. It’s Friday, a long weekend begins today and that is reason for celebration: among others, school is out until Tuesday. This year, the fall comes with changes we’ve been anticipating for a while but had yet to address: We are on the brink of homeschooling, at least part-time for now, unless the school deems such liberal approach unrealistic, in which case it becomes a full-time adventure. Conventional schooling has been creating a few ripples for a while now, and the reasons are as complex as they are puzzling.

It’s not academic challenges that have led us to where we are today but the opposite, and the negativity that sprouts from being immersed in a system that allows for wings to be clipped, thus preventing children to think for themselves instead of encouraging them to do so, and welcoming the challenge that can only lead to minds that will keep expanding. The world today requires thinkers more than ever; people who will challenge established, convenient views not for the purpose of being different but because they see occasional wrongness and are able to envision better outcomes through revisiting and reshaping concepts. That is a tall order.

I believe every independent, critical thinker starts with a baby dropping an object and delighting in being able to do it again and again (hopefully, if adults will allow) until one day the baby becomes the child asking why the object falls instead of floating and thus beginning the amazing journey of discovering the world. The question is: how do we make curiosity grow into creativity and critical thinking? Rules are different than boundaries, and rules that have no other explanation than ‘because I/we said so’ or ‘because that’s how it’s always been’ will work against everything that the human spirit is born to live up to.

I have, over the summer, witnessed my boys delving into what interests them without any reservations, waking up every day ready to create, play, read, run around, and share their joy of seeing the world and learning about it through the unique lenses each of us is born with. It’s easy to become addicted to that twinkle of joy in their eyes. Curiosity just ate a big portion of what will make my appetite for learning grow even bigger, they seemed to say.

On the other hand, I have witnessed morning grumpiness, frustration, moans and complains associated with going to school. Why is that? Many reasons that have, for a while, made me question whether my sons are seeing the world through negative lenses. Raised to trust a system that promises to address my children’s academic needs and help develop social skills and help them thrive, I ended up doubting it greatly and feeling as if I was failing my sons by not listening carefully to how they saw it all. While my youngest is still shielded from some of it, my oldest’s lists of complains has been growing steadily: Boredom, lack of challenging subjects, repetition of already learned topics, gratuitous forbidding of what one could call ‘normal children’s play’ by supervision aids who seem to forget that children need to feel welcome and safe rather than incarcerated in the space dedicated to learning of life skills, authority figures that fail, sadly, to grow into appropriate role models because the way they approach teaching and disciplining intimidate children, rather than motivate them to do better and learn more.

Six hours a day should cover enough interesting material to make the mind soar. Instead, it leaves my oldest say it is more of a daycare than he would ever want it to be. A few interesting topics covered do not make up for the ones that are either not challenging enough or downright insulting towards children that can and should be trusted with so much more. The problem is not all are at a level that allows for more challenging material, I am told by teachers. Many higher grade students struggle with basic things and that has to be addressed. I believe both teachers and students are double-crossed by a system that does not see the forest for the trees. It is not the teachers’ fault that children are not up to par, and if I am correct, we are witnessing the degradation of a learning system that has become children-led but not in a constructive way. Children need boundaries and guidance, rather than praise and complacency. They need to be presented topics that will pique their interests whatever those interests turn out to be, rendering them wide-eyed and ready to jump in with questions and delightful ideas to build further thinking avenues from then on. If a child falls into lack of interest and boredom or downright hates school, it’s not the child’s fault, or the teachers or the parents’, but the system that prevents all of them to move freely and understand that every child is born with a mind ready to learn and create and should be fully encouraged and nourished to do so.

A taste of added challenge is only for the gifted ones though, which, I am told, my oldest son is. I’ve never believed in that concept. I believe both my sons are creative in their own special way, just like every child is. As for gifted, the greatest gift of all, which is life, has been given to all of us. Beyond that, it’s up to them to build a path showing what they are interested in and it’s up to us adults to help their creativity and love of learning grow; through discussions about what they see, what they learn and through debates on topics that go beyond political correctness and ‘thou shall not’. I do believe that, given enough attention but also room to explore and find their interests, all kids have to potential to thrive.

Fall days ahead will be bringing sunshine and cloudiness, blue skies and grey, just like many hours of pondering over this complex matter will bring arguments that will help solidify our decision. Our decision, not mine or my sons’ alone, but ours as a family, ours as people who hold themselves accountable to each other, and  keep together, knowing what we stand for and honouring the amazing gift we’ve been entrusted with: life.

It should go up from here, bumps in the road notwithstanding.

To be continued…

Crepes For Breakfast

FuzzyI wanted to go out for a morning ride, I had the itinerary in mind and was all dressed, but I could not get myself to leave the house before the boys woke up. I’d miss the first hug, the nestling of little boy on my lap, the hug from big boy, their hair every which way and eyes drowsily braving the morning light.

Early mornings work for sneaking out and coming back before the wild boys wake up, but late night reading often bites into earliness and leaves me hanging like this.

The day is cool, a relief after days of breathing hot air like we’re inhabiting an oven. It’s too hot, the boys often say; I cannot allow for summer hating though. Summer is the peach tree branches hanging low, heavy with fruit, and tomatoes that turn red and the bumblebees that are all confused about the disappearing of their favorite snack: tomato flower pollen. Everything becomes something before our eyes…

My ride today is short, I follow the river; its surface mirrors a sky that is unglamorous, but why would that matter. Thoughts bounce off the surface of my own rivers flowing relentlessly towards seas of life I have yet to discover. Rivers of thoughts, they need to be taken out each day, they synchronize their incessant dance with that of the real ones…

Summer is apricot jam made yesterday and laid inside hot crepes today, memories of my childhood when my great aunt would make platefuls of them in the outdoor oven, the smell of wood adding hotness to air already hot… I never complained because I knew what came next: tummies full of warmth, sweetness stuck to cheeks and the lazy afternoon to follow. The countryside I miss.

The boys eat with their mouths full, they ask for more and I remember my own eagerness to skip talking just so I could eat more. Funny how snippets of life past ask to be revived. The sharing I do with my boys, life in big yummy bites, life I can make them smile about. But there’s more sides to life. Life is never just smiles.

We talk about school, the topic just tumbled in the midst of another conversation about living in the wilderness… The boys tell how going to school makes many children unhappy for the time they’re there. Not unhappy with learning, but unhappy with other things. Rushed, impatient figures, playing power games with children. The boys see through much of it. My fault, for peeling eyes open and inviting to thinking.

We talk and daydream about schools to grow in. Stunted growth is what I often see instead. Why not schools where wide-eyed innocence breeds joy and curiosity is the very ground children step on? Wings unclipped. Could it be? Why not nowadays? We know so much about what makes the mind soar, why let children fall through the cracks?

The boys have insights that humble, they share as I share. This is not complaining but facing perspective as it presents itself to us and adjusting ourselves to have the courage to take unforeseen, unscheduled leaps, should the said perspective become too narrow for how we envision life.

Growing up is a together adventure, I never pictured my boys being in someone else’s care more than my own. Not when they’re shaken at times and becoming distrustful. Finding the way, the right way, the fair way, as a parent, that is the biggest challenge of all. It makes me both fearful and brave at the same time. What’s the next step? The together adventure is no joke.

Wild boys run into the back yard to play. There’s loud voices, whispers, hiding, laughter, sneaking around and some scraped knees.

Little boy runs up the stairs and hands over a tiny dandelion. ‘From us, the smallest one’ … Mop of sun-bleached hair dances as he runs back in the yard for more playing. Will I ever be able to define gratefulness the right way? It’ll never be enough. Some words will only live on the inside, padding the corners only I know about.

I sit down, check the day’s news and get reminded of a sad story. The ice cream store owner downtown told us about yesterday. ‘Oh, you don’t know? Robin Williams died today.’ I don’t get to ask why. He says it out loud: suicide. The boys’ eyes grow big. Too much information? Little boy frowns. How do people commit suicide? Why?

He was funny, they argued. He made people laugh. How did he with all the struggles he faced at times? The dance we can never enough of, the dance we’re sick of so often…Life. Unkind and monstrous at times, we are its pawns and ride good waves, but a few bad ones can make most people lose their way. People sometimes do that when they’re sad and discouraged and depressed, I tell the boys. Not just sad, but awfully sad. That makes loneliness darker than dark. No one knows, no one should be judged…

TearsIt’s a grip you let go of. In that moment of darkness, all is distorted. The boys listen, ponder… Do they understand? Do we?…

I take their lead; they live in the moment. More playing, getting hungry, eating peaches off the tree, asking for treats to be baked later in the day, arguing, finding common ground, trading sticks and Lego pieces. Life. They don’t think too much of it but live it fully. I do though. Too much is a side effect, enough is what I hope for just so I can have them live theirs with joy.

Crepes for breakfast? Why not?

The Reading Thing And All Things Related

It was a year or so ago that Sasha’s kindergarten teacher asked that we have a chat. She was concerned that Sasha’s early reading and writing skills were not as advanced as his classmates’.

“I am concerned,” she said, as plainly as possible.
“I am not,” I replied. I meant that.

Whether it was mama bear instinct or serenity based on some innate knowledge that only mothers can have, I kept a straight face while being told that my son will soon start to feel embarrassed because he will not be among those who know how to.

That he had no reason to feel embarrassed about anything is an understatement. His interest in Egyptian gods back then, plus his admiration for Steve Irwin, inspired him to draw beautiful colorful renditions of the said gods and also fill many pages of his notebooks with drawings of creatures, both real and imaginary. We read books – nature books, chapter books and picture books, although to be fair, he has always been more taken with the long reads. His vocabulary contained words that would take me by surprise.

I could not understand why at the age of five and a half he was expected to write, as in write down most of a word based on the sound of it as the word was dictated by the teacher. He was expected to read simple words and slowly make his way up the reading skill scale, I was told. Like many kids his age, he could not care less and he was not interested or ready to do so. I let him take the lead and do it when he’s ready. He became ready.

So here we are, a year later, plopped on the sofa every afternoon, opening tiny books with tiny stories about jolly pirate captains that drop their hats in the water and don’t mind, and dinosaurs that eat dragonflies and cockroaches. Accurate stuff, wouldn’t you say? Sasha reads, I listen, and there’s no “you’re amazing” uttered every third word but my proud looking at him matches his sparkling eyes. His pride shows too.

We celebrated his first reading of a tiny book with my eyes growing big and surprised. “You’re reading! Isn’t that nice?” Their room has a huge red bookshelf that holds an army of books. Every week or so we bring a couple from the library. Think of all the books you’ll be reading, I told him. But there’s no hurry up and do it now that you know how. I love our cuddling reading times, just like he loves my reading with different voices and sounds. And yes, the cuddling.

What I wanted him to know most of all is that reading is supposed to be his big breakthrough and no one else’s. He is equally loved and accepted and appreciated for everything that he is. The fact that he is prying open the writing and reading doors and looking at the world through different colored lenses should make him look forward to new adventures to come.

Not that he did not have any until now. His world has been enriched by exploring the world in his own way, by daring to do so, by listening to stories being read to him, by asking many questions, by getting down and dirty every step of the way. The human mind is always pushing forward when the time is right.

Being told or suggested to that they need to do it because everyone does it is not only unfair to children, but also deleterious to the way they perceive reading. Back when I wrote the first post on the topic I argued that it could lead to feeling inadequate and that is the wrong feeling at such an early age when enthusiasm and curiosity and confidence work so well together. Let’s call it creativity for short.

Curiosity must remain the perpetually hungry, perpetually wild beast that will make our children explore further and find richer feeding grounds as it grow. If we don’t spook it with silly milestones that are not set by anything else but the pressure to engage them in the rat race sooner that is.

Ultimately, monumental achievements such as reading and writing should happen because nothing else would be enough anymore. Joy should be part of it. Just like stepping stones, you know. You can’t move further away unless you step on a certain stone at a certain time. But of course, I am merely speaking for my children. I am not a teacher after all…

 

 

 

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