Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let the wild rumpus start (L'Harmas posts)

Have you seen the movie Hop? (Terrible reviews, but it did have its moments.) The main character is an out-of-work young man named Fred.  Fred's sister takes pity on him and sets up a job interview. Fred mumbles that he'll think about it.  His sister says, "You don't think about it. You shave, you shower, and you show up."  At the least, right?

Sometimes it does start with showing up, being there, human beans getting involved. I'm thinking of the kids who showed up to play in Roxaboxen, and in Maurice Sendak's The Sign on Rosie's Door. Somebody (Marian, Rosie) had ideas...but the others had to come too.
Laurie Bestvater asked a question (at L'Harmas) that came out of her son's studies in political science. What is the moment when an idea leads to some kind of action, positive or negative?  If the air is charged with something about to happen, how do you get from thinking about it to doing something about it?  What moves you from just considering an idea to acting on it?

And when it's an idea that you're taking in, from someone or somewhere else, how do you define that moment of learning, the lightbulb flash?   If there's an element of mystery about how this happens, what is our part as teachers?  Is it something we can control, or do we just help set up the conditions for that to happen? Charlotte Mason had some things to say about not getting in the way of the Holy Spirit, even in religious instruction.
On the other hand, are there things that teachers and parents do (or hopefully don't do) that kill the mystery, that strip the body down to the bones?  Last  Friday, Lydia and I read this in Adler's How to Read a Book:  "The vice of 'verbalism' can be defined as the bad habit of using words without regard for the thoughts they should convey and without awareness of the experiences to which they should refer...'verbalism' is the besetting sin of those who fail to read analytically. [Note that 'analytically' is used here in a positive sense, meaning the reader searches for the big ideas in an argument by noting the key words, terms, and sentences, and not in the synthesis vs. analysis argument of classical education.] Such readers never get beyond the words ...lack of such discipline results in slavery to words rather than mastery of them."

As Laurie pointed out, another way of killing books (and the enjoyment of reading) is to drag them to pieces in unit studies (or blog posts). Or to give multiple-choice tests on them. (Do you notice that that test is part of a unit on Imagination?)

Roxaboxen is set in Arizona.  It mentions cactus and ocotillo. It gives us an idea of what it was like to play outdoors in a desert climate. But it is not a botany or geography book, any more than Miss Rumphius is a scientific study of lupines. The text has to be taken on its own terms. (That is where synthesis, not analysis in its pulling-apart sense, becomes important.)

Dallas Willard said that the Kingdom of God means that God is doing something, and that He invites us to join in whatever this thing is that he is doing, this divine conspiracy.  There's a clear invitation but also a certain sense of mystery, something that calls to us, something that we can give to our children so clearly that they themselves dream of a place they've never seen.  As our friend Cindy says, that "thing" is more often found in poetry than in grammar lessons, unless, again, our 'verbalism' destroys the poem that "should not mean but be."

In The Sign on Rosie's Door, Rosie entices her friends into spending a hot afternoon sitting on her cellar door with her, waiting for someone called "Magic Man" to show up.
"That evening, when their mothers asked them what they had done all afternoon, they said they had done so much there wasn't even enough time to do it in and they were going to do it all over again tomorrow.  'Good!' all their mothers said." ~~ Maurice Sendak, The Sign on Rosie's Door

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