Conversations and Connections

April 1, 2008 @ 8:43 pm | Filed under: ,

In our CM days, I used to keep rough daily lists of the books we read, lessons we did, games we played, “big ideas” we discussed, connections we made. The latter two categories were my favorite things to record, and I still keep notes about those. Sometimes here, sometimes in my notebook, sometimes at the old daily notes blog. I love to look back and marvel at all the places my children have taken me, figuratively speaking.

Today Wonderboy had speech therapy, and as the rest of us waited in the car we got into a lively discussion about perseverance and self-motivation. I’d mentioned a blog post I’d read that said kids don’t possess innate fortitude and need their parents to provide external motivation for pushing through challenging tasks, the parents providing backbone the kids themselves don’t have yet. Jane said, “But Mom! Remember in Eight Cousins when Aunt Clara wants Rose to wear a corset? And Uncle Alec gets mad and says that the custom of putting even babies in stiffened waists makes them grow up with weak backs?” Her mind had made a leap because of the backbone metaphor, and it was great to see how she analyzed the comparison and expanded upon it. “If someone is being your backbone for you, I don’t see where perseverance comes in.” Which is interesting, because that’s the same thing I’d thought when I read the post, but I hadn’t told her that. Sticking at a task because someone is making you would seem to require more obedience than perseverance.

We talked about external motivation vs. internal motivation, and people who succeeded at difficult endeavors through their own determination and persistence. She gave me a short history of Andrew Johnson, about whose pre-presidential life I knew nothing until today. It seems he was well past ten before he learned to read, and not until age 18 did he learn to write and cipher.

Me: How do you know all this?

Jane: From So You Want to Be President, of course.

That was one of Scott’s daddy-book picks a few years ago. He gives each kid a picture book for Christmas and birthdays. I should do a series of posts about those, one of these days. He finds the most interesting books.

In the parking lot outside speech, we saw what looked remarkably like a pair of Eastern bluebirds. They can’t have been, not in San Diego. We looked up blue birds (not bluebirds) in our Western Birds field guide back at home, but nothing we found looked right. So there’s a mystery we need to solve.

Rose wanted me to read the origin story of comic-book hero Adam Strange. Seems he was an archaeologist who discovered a hidden city of the Incas, including a vast treasure which had been intended for the ransom of the Inca emporer, Atahualpa, who was captured (and eventually killed) by Pizarro. Just as Adam Strange is about to be clobbered by the secret city’s protectors, he happens into a stray space-ray that teleports him to a planet in the Alpha Centauri system. Much sci-fi superhero action ensues. The girls had some wry commentary on certain gaping plot-holes, but they are great fans of Adam Strange nonetheless.

Jane asked me to do some of the puzzles in her Mensa Mind Puzzle book with her. This is a big fat book of brainteasers my father gave her. She adores it with the intensity of an Alpha Centauri space-ray. We sat on the couch together and worked on a couple of pages’ worth of puzzles. We’re both good at the number/logic ones and the word puzzles, but when it comes to the visual pattern solving games, I’m sunk. She’s very quick at those. My brain goes all fuzzy. We talked about Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory and visual/spatial intelligence vs. logic/mathematics intelligence vs. linguistic intelligence, and others.

Scott sent us this link, and we watched, and gasped, and realized, and laughed.

Toward the end of the afternoon, things fell apart a little. Squabbles broke out; I got tired. Beanie thought it would be nice to lie down together while she read me riddles from The Book of Think. She was right.

When Scott came home from work, he had all the kids out in the backyard running wind sprints. They were writing down their times and when they came in, the girls made a chart. Scott put on some David Bowie and I heard him quizzing the baby: “Who’s this?”

“Bow Ee!” She’s at that age where every syllable is its own word.

“That’s my girl.”

Now the little ones are asleep and Scott is reading Harry Potter to Rose. When last I saw Jane, she was crocheting while listening to something on her Walkman. Beanie is reading Adam Strange. I need to go sweep the kitchen floor.

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21 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Isabella says:

    Today we went to the beach with some friends and listened to Magyk by Angie Sage. It was a great way to pass the time, and the kids didn’t want me to stop the CD when I was driving (always very encouraging). The fourth book in the series is coming out this month. Another book my oldest loves is Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey.

    Thank you for sharing the books your kids love to read. I’m looking forward to reading Half Magic and others you’ve mentioned.

  2. Sarah N. says:

    I love reading about the books you’ve shared with you kids. We gotten some great reading ideas from your post about Favorite Fictional Families. I think it’s fascinating to see how things all the reading and learning you’re doing connect.
    I love when something we are reading seems to come at exactly the right time.

    My dd and I recently finished reading the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series and she loved it. We refer to it constantly. We’re now listening to the books in the car and we just started Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic yesterday and I realized that in the first chapter the interactions Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has with kids are perfect examples of the type of gentle, respectful interactions that have been discussed here. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle never fusses, yells or scolds and kids realized they don’t have to be afraid if they break something or make a mess. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will just help them clean it up and usually make them laugh while doing it.

  3. JoVE says:

    Sounds like a great day. But no wonder you needed a lie-down. Just reading it almost makes my brain explode. I find it hard enough some days to keep up with what one kid wants to teach me, much less having 3 or 4 putting new stuff in your brain at that rate.

  4. Marsha says:

    Wow, those are some great discussions!

    Thanks for the penguin link too. My boys were fascinated! And so was I.

  5. Angela, MotherCrone says:

    This is absolutely what education is all about! Kudos!

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Psst, Marsha…now remind your boys what day yesterday was (when my dh sent the link). πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  7. Meredith says:

    Great connections Lissa, and check out a Lazuli Bunting in your bird guide, it just may be the little guy you saw yesterday πŸ™‚

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    Here’s the Favorite Fictional Families post Sarah mentioned.

  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ooh, Meredith, we were looking at that one, but it seemed too vivid a blue for our guy. (We’re assuming what we saw was a male/female pair: one more brightly colored.) Do lazuli buntings get brighter at certain times of year? This guy was definitely blue, with a peach/rosy breast and lighter underbelly. But we mostly saw him from the front & sides, didn’t get a really good back view. Could have been a brighter blue than we could tell from our angle!

    I’m hoping we’ll see them again in that same parking lot. (Trees all around.)

  10. shaun says:

    I agree with Angela — it sounds like idyllic home education. Just don’t take this the wrong way: you make it sound so easy. Lay the right books around the house, throw in a little yarn and cool background music, and away you go! I know it can’t be so simple all the time.

  11. patience says:

    Sure, sure, wonderful – but I don’t see any MATHS in your description of learning!


    No seriously, you inspire me more and more in this unschooling lark. I remember back to the days when I was doing it in one of my occasional “unschooling experiments”, and I’d have huge lists every day of what was learned. And then I’d go back to more formalised learning and the lists would shrink dramatically.

  12. Amy says:

    Sounds like a great day! FWIW, I think having creative kids and a mom/dad willing to facilitate connections and converse are the key to days like this – we have them here during the times we are unschooling and the times we are not.

    Not to be argumentative or anything! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  13. Melissa Wiley says:

    “And then I’d go back to more formalised learning and the lists would shrink dramatically.”

    Yes, that’s exactly what I found too. The high tide lists were much shorter than the low tide ones!

    Amy, absolutely, the great conversations and connections can happen in any family. I’ve been posting in this vein for years, even in my CMest times. I did notice that for us, though, I was more apt to let these conversations unfold (and grow, and take us places) during the times when I didn’t have a mental checklist of readings and lessons I wanted to do that day.

  14. Willa says:

    “And then I’d go back to more formalised learning and the lists would shrink dramatically.”

    How true! I always thought that I was just too busy planning and teaching to notice the informal learning or write it down (which is a bit sad in itself). But yours is quite a convincing alternative explanation.

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    “I find it hard enough some days to keep up with what one kid wants to teach me, much less having 3 or 4 putting new stuff in your brain at that rate.”

    LOL, JoVE, that’s exactly what it’s like! People putting new stuff in my brain. Easy for them, with those fresh new brains!

  16. MamaLion says:

    Please do a post on the daddy-book pick picture books. I always appreciate the great book suggestions here.

  17. Madeline says:

    My farm boys and I are finishing reading the original Little House series and then I can’t wait to add in yours’! It is so cool that you are an unschooler too. Loved this post. You’re inspiring me to write more about our every day connections.

  18. Sarah R. says:

    Lissa, posts like these are the ones that give the confidence that I. Can. Do. It. I love reading about the details of what you’ve shared with your kids in a normal average day, and it does give me hope. In addition to all the “theories” of homeschooling, reading your practical posts helps me see that yes, I too could do this. (My oldest is only 3, so we’re right on the decision brink, though who am I kidding? If I DON’T homeschool, it will shock everyone who knows me…)