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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Art of Learning

Boy likes art. Boy HATES anything that looks remotely like traditional school. Eager to expand his creative mind and burgeoning artistic talents we spend ample time on art projects and weaving unschooling principles into suggestions, presentation and home school work time. To achieve this I have had to unschool myself and treat Boy as my academic equal – as though he is one of my university students.

This morning he begged for art. He nominated a yearning for drawing mountains. Ummm, this did not fit my plan for reading and comprehension. How could I weave my requirements for overall learning with his need for creativity?

“No worries darling. I just have to put this book away. Actually, it’s got some great photos of mountains and volcanoes if you want to have a peek for inspiration.”

I was born and raised in Papua New Guinea: a mountainous place of constant earth tremors and erupting volcanoes. A friend, who also spent most of her early adult life in Papua New Guinea, gave us a coffee table book on Papua New Guinea as a present for our recent wedding. When handing it over she said it was to help new husband understand where and how I was raised and why I am the person I am.

I told Boy the story she told as she handed the book across at my hen’s party:

I met Megan when our biggest children were very little. The kids were attending a group and every week, Megan was huddled in a corner poring over books and writing notes. When curiosity got the better of me, I approached Megan and began a conversation. Megan said she was studying for another degree. After only 10 minutes of talking with her, I asked if she was a “territorial brat” (a white child raised in one of the Australian territories, Papua New Guinea). Territorial brats grew up thinking they owned the world, could do anything and allowed nothing to stop their thirst for knowledge, practical learning and artful navigation of life. Megan fitted the mould to a T. It is because of Megan that I decided to go to university. Now that I’ve gone back to do a Masters degree, would you believe that: that little territorial brat has become my lecturer!
Interested in my early life that turned me into a monster (his words, not mine!), Boy began flicking through the book and asking me questions. Enthralled by my animated stories of jumping out of bed in the middle of the night to stand under doorframes until the quake was over, Boy asked a myriad of questions around lava, poisonous gas and the weight of volcanic ash. While story telling, Boy began drawing a volcano (pictured with the inspirational book).

Even more interested in how to become a “territorial brat”,
Boy questioned how he also could rule the world.

“It’s all in the way you ask the questions and respond to people. Listening, responding and standing up for yourself are skills. You can them in a helpful way or a not so helpful way. That book club surprise you got last month is all about how to rule the world.”

Eager to capitalize upon the teachable moment, I hoped that I could find the book in Boy’s incredibly disorganized room. Bingo. It was right beside his bed.

“I read that. It’s boring,” Boy scoffed.

“Really? You must have just read the boring bits because check this out: "This book is all about how to deal with other people and get what you want from them, whether it’s a new bike, a fair deal, or a little respect” and “What to say to Grown-ups who treat you like a kid.”

After reading the first chapter together, Boy changed his mind about the book being boring. He completed the pop quiz that resulted in an analysis of:
“You have an okay idea of how to handle yourself, but you don’t always make the best decisions about what to say or do. Don’t worry – that’s where this book comes in! Read on to learn how to get through all kinds of sticky situations.”

How Aspergers does that analysis sound?! As I type, Boy is at the kitchen table drawing a picture of how to get me to stop treating him like a little kid. What an artful way of learning.

To learn more about the art of storytelling, have a look at
this article I wrote. Here is another one on being self-assertive. Both are useful ideas to teach to children and to use as home school lessons.

Finally, and just because I cannot fit them into anything else, here are some quilt squares I made for our
Wedding quilt. I had terrific fun telling Boy my story behind the quilt square symbols and listening to him embellish the stories beyond belief.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Hi, Megan,

Sounds like you are incredibly busy! I am glad you and boy are healthy again.

I think it is so important to share stories of our origins with our kids.

I grew up in the American midwest, but both of my kids are "Native New Mexicans." Sometimes I forget that my experiences growing up in a rural farming area are very different from their experiences growing up in a small city in the southwest. Once, when my daughter was little, we flew into O'Hare Airport in Chicago and took Amtrak downstate to my hometown. My daughter spent a long time looking out the window and then finally said in a puzzled voice: "And exactly how do they water all of this corn?" I had to laugh and tell her, "G-d does it." Then I explained about the 40 - 50 inches of rain a year that falls in central Illinois. (In Albuquerque we get less than 10 inches, here in the mountains twice that).

Megan Bayliss said...

Hi E
yes, I'm so busy I can't even find time to eat chocolate!!!!
Just know that I haven't abandoned my visits to you. There's only three more weeks until end of semester (marking assignments) and then I'll be back to my prefered routine.

Kaber said...

AWESOME! You are just awesome!

(It's kinda fun to trick them into wanting to do the school we had planned...LOL)

Megan Bayliss said...

I agree K (about the tricking - not sure if I fit the awesome mould). I'm getting good at manipulating the learning and the teachable moments. I put a lot of wffort in making the learning not look like learning. Wears me out!!!
Take care and I'll be back visiting you again soon.

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