Sunday, June 20, 2010

Human Development - kind of

So somehow I went from wherever I was as a young guy to this worn out husk who had to deal with with raising six kids. Was nothing I planned to do, but, well, there it is.

That's not the point - it's just to give you my credentials, assert my authority, bolster my claims, etc etc.

This first point is that I'm writing from my experience - not text book theory or some other academic point of view [I have those also, but not about kids]

Here's the Second Point:

When a kid is just born, they don't do a lot and the way they interact is really different from how they are later on. They're kind of like little animals that just crawl or run around. They don't really argue about anything. Their complaints are very personal and immediate - hungry, wet, cold, lonesome, tired.

After a couple of years something happens. You've been going along saying things like: Please don't do that or Please do this - and almost getting used to the fact that they never really pay much attention and don't seem to remember what you said from one second to the next. But then the thing happens: the kid turns around and looks you straight in the eye and says - very firmly and usually pretty loudly - "NO"!

This is a major breakthrough.

The kid hasn't turned into a monster or become a 'Terrible Two' (as I was told by my mother, over and over again). The kid just now finally noticed that you're trying to get him (or her) to do something that wasn't what he wanted to do.

That's the point when you can finally start teaching the kid how to 'not get run over by a car' and 'to clean your plate' and 'to pick up your toys'. It won't work - at least not for the first 10 or 20 years - but you can now get started and be (relatively) happy with the knowledge that you're not just being ignored. You're being Actively ignored and - believe it or not - all of you talking, pleading, reasoning, and (most of all) the example you set is sinking into that little mind.

After mulling this over for a bunch of years - I've come to the conclusion that this is a pivotal point in all of our developments. It's the point where we realize that we live in a context over which we do not have total control and with which we must learn to interact.

And for a Third Point:

Lora (we're married and four of the kids are her fault) is a certified Montessori method pre-primary instructor. She went to school for a year, did a year internship, read all of Montessori's books and practiced on our kids. Turns out that's enough for her - she prefers ponies and dogs to humans.

Anyway, she has creds as well.

Montessori discovered - by observing kids - that kids go through various phases of development where they are really different. She called them sensitive periods and it's fascinating stuff.

But - to get to the point - there's one thing I wanted to write about here. It's the thing which happens when the fish in the classroom fish tank dies.

The pre-primary Montessori classes have kids in the 3 to 5/6 year range. They generally have a fish tank. At some time during the year one or more of the fish will die.

Here's where it gets interesting.

The kids come in and quickly divide into two groups.

The younger kids look at the fish and say 'the fish is dead' and then go do something.

The older kids look at the fish and say 'the fish is dead. I wonder why the fish died. Was the water too hot? Was it too cold? Did another fish kill it? Wasn't the food right? I think that ...'

You get the difference?

Before something changes, it's ok to just see the dead fish and register it as a fact.

After 'the change' we have to 'know Why'.

I think this is the origin of Why.

You should listen to some of the silly 'reasons' 5 and 6 year old kids come up with. Their logic is not all that bad, but the 'facts' they start from are pretty lame. But that makes sense because the don't have much experience.

So do that for a while - - - and then - if you're brave - listen to some of your friends and neighbors talking about stuff. Things like 'the problem with ... is ... because ...'

When I started listening to adults and comparing it with the stuff 5 and 6 year olds come up with, I got really upset. It's the same stuff!!!

I think everybody is acting like 6 year olds - including the guys who run the countries and big companies.

Doesn't that explain a lot of what's going on?

I'm telling you - the problem is the whole thing is being run by 6 year olds and that's why nothing works. The answer is . . .

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