More than once I’ve had people ask me if it’s wise to use the words heroes and genius in association with children. What is the justification for using such powerful language in the context of some snotty, undeveloped youngsters?
A recent quote verbatim: “Is it a good idea to be calling kids geniuses?”
Having been the second time in a couple of days that I had been asked such a question, it has driven me to write this reply in order to dignify such an inquiry.
This short pre-amble is really just to contextualise some quotes from The Prodigy by Hermann Hesse, a writer whose poetry is more than able to convey what he wished to say. This book was also released under the name “Beneath the Wheel” which gives a more immediate clue as to his opinion of the schooling process.
The back cover of this edition reads:
This novel is Hermann Hesse’s indictment of conventional education. It is the story of a brilliant young boy whose spirit is systematically broken by his parents and teachers; over-anxious about his success, they forget to consider his health and happiness. Out of his attitude to such treatment, Hesse developed his views on the value of Eastern education in developing the self.
This incredible writer has kept me spellbound for hours on end and I’ve re-read his classics many times, including this smaller work where he attacks education for its sins against youth and our inner intelligence.
The web of love is one of my favourite activities for the end of the day. My two year old is pretty feisty and it really takes something to calm her down when she’s finally lying down in bed. We removed her cot recently and she’s still adapting to the new found freedom of a junior bed. She can easily get up and fall prey to the temptations of books and toys so I need to do something which can gradually relax her while occupying her attention.
As an event which generally occurs three times a day for a good 18 years, at least, either a family establishes some good practices or these daily rituals become trials we must endure… grinding us down. The act of eating together can be something which actually brings everyone together for a genuinely enjoyable experience, it might require that we explicitly express our intentions in order for that to happen.
What exactly constitutes modern table etiquette? What do we need to teach our children so that meal times can be a pleasurable experience for everyone? Some modern research points to health benefits arising from eating with others.
Although I was taught table manners in the sense of how to hold my knife and fork and to chew with my mouth closed, my family didn’t really engender the spirit of harmony at meal times. It wasn’t until I lived in France and Spain that I really came to understand what sharing a meal could really mean.
Are table manners just some anachronistic remnant from the past? Perhaps some people would argue that it’s just a remnant of high class snobbery and betrays an ugly disdain for the uneducated. I’d like to look at it from a parenting perspective, wanting the best for our children.
If the art of successful real estate comes down to location, location, location, then the art of happy parenting comes down to sleep, sleep and more sleep.
With everything we’ve learned from recent scientific studies of sleep, of which there are many, the wisdom of our grandparents about getting kids to bed on time has been soundly confirmed, should we ever have doubted it (and I certainly did).
Appreciating the power of routine was not something I was immediately given to seeing that I’ve spent most of my life living in the moment and responding to life spontaneously. As an arty, creative type, always involved with numerous projects and their frequently shifting timetables, regularity and routine often seemed like unattainable and undesirable objectives.
It wasn’t until I lived with a woman whose personal routines ran like clockwork did I begin to see the positive impact it had on our children. Had childcare been left solely to me, our kids would undoubtedly have gone to bed when they fancied, perpetually messing with their circadian rhythms.
The power of repetition has generally been ingrained into us without our realising. It’s not until living with a toddler can we really see the degree to which repetition is an essential part of the learning process. There are moments when the constant recycling of the same conversations can be to the limit of draining our will to live as parents but it’s the thought that these processes are what’s required for them to feel confident with their rapidly acquired knowledge.
Just lately I’ve been considering the importance of possibly the most vital word in a parent’s vocabulary. However, there are many parents who’ll avoid using it at all costs and the absence of this word can lead to a lack of boundaries and nightmares for all concerned. It’s overuse can also lead to real issues. So, what is a knowledge bullet? It’s a reference to a small yet very important word found in every language on earth. It’s possibly the most condensed form of transferrable knowledge we can find, most effective when it’s the approximate size and shape of a bullet, a projectile ready to be launched with deadly accuracy at lightning speeds.
Really playing is something parents in this modern world find hard to do. It requires us to be completely undistracted, entirely present to what’s happening in the room at that moment, aware of the communication that’s occurring between us and our children at that moment.
This is one of the small blessings wrapped up in the current Corona panic. What a gift to see parents and children really playing together in a way we rarely see.
Walking through the park we can see mothers and fathers looking at their children with eyes of awe and wonder, taking time to really appreciate their children’s sparkle and their beauty.
Asking questions sounds like such a reasonable thing to do with our children. If we imagine an adult saying “Stop asking questions!” to a child, it would be easy to picture the stressed out, overloaded parent, probably in a supermarket, who simply didn’t have the patience for yet another infuriating, abstract question from the youngster. However, the title of this piece is a reminder to self, a reminder that I need to stop asking my children questions all the time, they find it just as disconcerting as I would. This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again.
A strange little moment occurred at a baby group today. My nearly two year old girl, whose independence is often noted, came a cropper when a little boy decided he wanted the tricycle she was sitting on.
She was launched sideways and her head made a fairly decent thud on the floor as she went down. Although I normally suppress reactions and ignore any trips or falls completely, this one definitely merited a cuddle. She started crying in a manner not disproportionate to the bang her head made on the floor. Holding her tight in my arms, the sobbing slowly calmed to an uncharacteristic whine/cry. Squatting uncomfortably and wanting to shift position without breaking the embrace, I lay back gently and held her to my chest. That was how I found myself conspicuously lying on the floor in the middle of a busy playgroup in a large church hall, wondering what the other parents might have been thinking. We were there for a good 5-10 minutes.
This entry intends to record last week’s big news, our family’s latest arrival.
We often talk about bringing babies ‘into this world’, while Alan Watts used to talk about being born ‘out of this world’… like a fruit blossoming from a tree. My wife has often used the term landing… which I love, partly because it fits with a family mythology we have. The Bus-Stop at the Edge of the Universe is where all the souls waiting to incarnate are lining up, waiting for the right bus to bring them to earth. Each bus passing this queue of souls displays the parents’ names as well as the child’s future name and their time and date of birth. The souls wait for the bus which provides them with the right opportunity for growth… and then climb aboard to begin spiralling through our galaxy… all set to land at just the right moment.
Last week saw the birth of my first son, who I intend to be my fourth and final child. At the time of writing, my daughters are aged 15, 11 and 2, witnessing this significant part of their early lives has been an honour and a blessing. The spread of their ages means that I’ve been able to see the trajectory of their development, noticing the consequences of my actions and how they have impacted my older children. Coupled with my work in Arts and Education for more than twenty-five years, I’ve been granted a unique opportunity to observe young people at home and at school, in the playground and on the streets. Having run a bilingual nursery, a community education centre and worked as a mentor for young men, as well as a mediator for couples and families, I have seen the full spectrum of childcare, its triumphs, its successes and its heart breaking catastrophes.
Masanobu Fukuoka was the godfather of modern permaculture… he developed the idea of natural farming and demonstrated that it was possible to live an abundant, satisfying life with a minimum of effort. His ideas can easily be transposed into education.
In his deeply inspiring “The One-Straw Revolution”, we find a One-Straw Revolution which is not so much about food or farming but the attitude by which he came to his realisations… Fukuoka manages to show the full potential of agriculture when we allow nature to do what it does best. Continue reading “One-Straw Education”