“The saddest thing for me about the education system, as I have witnessed it, is that it seems almost intentionally calculated to create anxious children, parents and teachers. Matt was only four the first time I was told he was “behind the benchmark”, which I still think is an obscene and revolting way to describe any child, and this emphasis on his shortcomings and failures has continued…
It’s a big, complex question, the matter of how we educate our children, and I imagine it feels overwhelming from the inside. I am not an expert. I’m just a parent and a lover of words and stories who feels deeply sad at all the unnecessary stress and missed opportunities and the avalanche of mental health problems in children and their parents and teachers. The bold thing would be to take a blank sheet of paper and start again. Could we not do that? Could we not ask how we want to educate our children, all of them, with creativity and joy?”Fronted Adverbials Be Damned
Writers make writing look so easy. Is writing as difficult for them as it is me? I’m certainly not an avid writer but I do write: journals, letters, notes, lists. I seem to be more of a lister than a writer. I have many lists of things I want to write about. The problem is getting started and I’m easily distracted. Of course any distraction could be considered a stalling tactic by the inner critic that seems to whisper disparaging remarks:
“What do YOU have to say?”
“Who wants to read THAT!”
“You can’t say that!”
And so, I find something else to do.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading about writing and writing about writing; taking notes and listing, of course. I came across this quote by E.B. White:
Writing is for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen.
I don’t know about my mind traveling faster than my pen but I do know my mind wanders. As for writing being laborious and slow, I think the over all process, start to finish, is arduously slow but the actually physical writing, putting pen to paper, is almost art-like; pencil and paper meet in a series of lines and curves. (Flash backs of doodling in class comes to mind! A distraction, perhaps?).
The physical act of writing is fluid and creative a lot like drawing.This notion reminded me of what I learned in Betty Edwards’ excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
(I highly recommend this book, by the way! We used it for our high school art curriculum.)
But writing is an art form. Using line, one of the most basic elements of art, handwriting can function as a means of artistic self expression. …letters of the alphabet have evolved into shapes of great beauty that communicate verbally. …linking writing once again to the esthetic purpose of drawing.
Without going into all the right brain – left brain detail, one of the main ideas in Betty Edwards’ book, is how to silence the critical verbal left brain by learning to make a shift to the noncritical nonverbal right brain. It is here, in the right brain, where one looses track of time and where artisans, what ever their trade, get into “the zone”.
A surgeon once told me that while operating on a patient (mainly a visual task, once a surgeon has acquired the knowledge and experience needed) he would find himself unable to name the instruments. He would hear himself saying to an attendant, “Give me the . . .the . . . you know, the . . . thingamajig!
This shift from left brain to right brain is a skill that can be developed by setting up conditions that will allow this shift to happen. As I was learning to draw following Betty Edwards’ course in her book, I learned some of her techniques that I think have helped me with writing. Betty Edwards suggests finding a quiet place void of people talking so the left brain doesn’t focus on the task of decoding the verbal signals coming into the brain. She also suggests listening to instrumental music only; again leaving the left brain void of any verbal messages. Like with drawing, I’m finding this to be a good combination for silencing the verbal left brain critic so I can move on to the art of writing – pencil to paper, lines and curves.
So far, it seems to be working. Doodles AND words!
Our daughter just graduated Salutatorian from a major university!
We home schooled all the way through high school.
I remember fearing our children would never learn to read and write. It seemed as if everyone’s children where reading novels and writing novels while our children where busy with self directed imaginative play and artistic activities.
Our children were what some would call late bloomers. But were they really late bloomers or did they simply learn to read and write when they were ready physically, cognitively and emotionally in their own way? In my experience, the later is most certainly more accurate in the nature of how children learn.
Being a parent, you worry; compare your children to those of others. Seemingly, there is a cultural push to prepare children academically to excel in school at a very young age. David Elkind wrote extensively about the pitfalls of “The Hurried Child” and the importance of play.
As I look back through our home schooling years, I now marvel at the ease our children learned to read and write despite how much I worried. We read to them starting at a very young age and continued to read to them well into their teens. Books, magazines, newspapers and maps filled the house and were always accessible to our children. Because we surrounded our children with the printed and spoken word, they understood the value of words ~ that words mean things and convey thoughts and ideas.
If you are considering homeschooling or currently homeschooling and worry about how to teach your children to read write and do math, trust your children. They will learn to read, write and do math in their own way given the freedom to do so. Who knows, they may graduate as Salutatorian one day! 😉
Articles of interest on the subject of “The Hurried Child”:
- David Elkind: The Hurried Child Syndrome
- David Elkind: Learning Through Play
- Learning To Read The Waldorf Way By Barbara Dewey of Waldorf Without Walls We had the pleasure meeting Barbara Dewey on several occasions. She is a fantastic teacher and mentor ~ so patient, wise and kind. I shared with her my concern about our children not reading as compared to other children we knew. In her calming demeanor, she assured me that our children will read when they are ready and encouraged me to continue to read to our children and to relax. And that we did! Both now read and write mellifluously.
- Self-Directed Education and Late Bloomers by Patrick Farenga
- Joseph Chilton Pearce (Author of The Magical Child): Play Is Learning Excellent interview with Joseph Chilton Pearce!