Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When was the last time you sat in silence with your child and observed nature in action? These moments are few and far between. With the mastery of speech comes an onslaught of verbal observations. Look, mommy look! This is the child's anthem. I have often used the "it's quiet time" just so that I could have a moment to concentrate. Sometimes I use it at the grocery store so that I can have a minute to read a label, or in the car so I can concentrate as a search for a particular address. If not checked, children (and some adults) will start their verbal onslaught upon waking and it will continue throughout the end until lights out at the end of the evening. I once found my son sitting behind the sofa in quiet contemplation and asked him what he was thinking about. I NEVER made that mistake again. It was just so strange that I was actually concerned that something was wrong.

One of my goal for the kids in the program is to balance them out a bit when it comes to verbal chatter and quiet time. We tend to associate verbal fluency with intelligence and there maybe a correlation. However there is a difference between verbal fluency and verbal chatter. I tell the kids all time to use their words like pearls. They should be helpful and beautiful. You can say, Where's the marble? Where's the marble? Where's the marble? over and over again or you can say , help me find the marble. The first only serves to annoy because the marble can't hear you. The latter illicits help and it will help solve the problem of the lost marble.

Quiet moments can be magical. Once long ago my son and I were sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow fall. Not a word passed between us but we shared so much that day. I strive to have moments like this a least on a weekly basis. This morning I called all the kids to come to the back door. I put my finger to my lips as they each joined me, letting them know to be very quiet. There was a cat prowling outside, stalking our resident blue birds. We watched quietly for a second when one child piped up. "Look at the cat!" I put my hand on his shoulder, smiled and without saying a word I put my finger back up on my lips. No words. It was a gentle reminder. I did this a couple of times with different children. It's hard to keep quiet when something exciting is going on. We managed to observe the cat until he grew tired or bored and he jumped the fence into the neighbors yard. I then had the kids draw a picture of what they observed. It was awesome. Once their pictures where done they each got a chance to share all about the cat and the bird. It was interesting how each one shared something different. The observations were not jaded by someone else's experience and in the end we all got more out of it.

Giving voice to your thoughts can be empowering and healing, but it loses it's value if it's done constantly and without thought. Quiet observation is also quite powerful. I often tell the kids about Jane Goodall. She just sat for years and watched the chimps. Why they ask. I tell them that's how she learned about them. Sometimes I tell them, all your questions can be answered if you quietly observe your surroundings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Good News

I write about what's "wrong" with our public education system. The good news is that there are a lot of individuals and organizations that are doing things right. For me, doing things right means simply offering a choice, a differing opinion, someone who is giving us something to think about. In the circles that I gravitate to, there is talk about a paradigm shift. I see it. I feel it.

This new paradigm is about creativity. It's about doing things in a new way. It's about fearless teaching and learning. It's about trusting the process and understanding that learning is continual, though not necessarily linear. It's about sharing what you know even if you don't have a degree. It's about creating something meaningful and knowing that a hand knitted baby beanie made of the softest lambs wool is as beautiful and as beneficial as creating new fuel technology. It's about understanding the value of fairy tales and myths and really believing that the fastest doesn't always win the race. It's knowing that knowledge comes in many forms and that the most important thing in life is to be ever curious.

This weekend I leave you with a list of links to sites that are prompting these values. I hope you take the time to look them over and share you thoughts.

There are many, many more, but these will give you some good reading material for the weekend.

I would like to wish all the dads out there a very happy Father's Day. You are as varied as your children. Some of you work day in and day out to provide for your families. Some of you struggle because you lacked an appropriate role model. Some of you are stay at home dads trying to find your place in a world dominated by women. Know that all of you are loved by your children and appreciated by those whose life you make a little sweeter. Thanks and enjoy.