Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Beamish Boy Learns

If you don't live with us (and you don't, but we'd love to have you for a visit), it may be hard to imagine how it is that the boy learns. If you ask him what he likes to do (and you probably will), it may be hard for him to answer with anything beyond video games. If you ask him what he's learned lately, he will likely say, "I don't know," or "Nothing much." This is not because that is the truth, but because there is no defined, or correct answer - there is no box in his head labeled Important things I have learned, which he will know to draw from when someone asks him that question.

So I thought I'd sit down and play with seeing where this week has led us, in terms that can be labeled learning, but are more truly an expression of endless curiosity.

Learning from a pack of 3-D opaque ink:
While Cutter and I were eating one day this week, he pulled over a pack of art pens I'd left on the table. The questions began. "So, what does opaque mean?" I answered. Then, on one side, he noted the writing in English, on the other, writing in a different language. He compared and said, "S0, in Spanish you say writing you can feel by saying ecriture en relief." I explained that the language was French and how the translation is not entirely literal. En relief led to a discussion about the style of art known as bas-relief. From there Cutter asked me when I had learned Spanish and I shared how I had studied in college and then taught ESL after college, when he was a baby and came with me. We looked at South America on the map and talked about how the word Hispanic can be used to describe people who speak Spanish but that you wouldn't assume they are Spanish because Spain conquered much of South America, but that there were indigenous peoples, with native languages, already in those countries. Interesting!

Learning from a comedy:
A few days ago, Cutter and I went to see Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels. After the movie, Cutter talked about how Jack Black is always cast as himself and we talked about type casting of actors. At the end of the film, Black sings the song War, which Cutter loved. Later at home, I looked to see who had written the song and shared with Cut that it was by Edwin Starr, a Motown artist (another link in our visit Detroit soon chain) and the song was an anti-Vietnam protest song. Just as I was sharing that info., Cutter beat story mode on Black Ops and was watching a cut scene (video) of Fidel Castro, JFK and Richard Nixon talking - another link in our Vietnam war chain. Cool!

Learning from a book or two:
Cutter and I have been reading aloud each of the Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley for a couple of years now. We recently acquired the 8th book in the series, which finds the three main characters traveling through a series of classic fairy tales. At one point, they travel through The Wizard of Oz and Cutter and I tried to remember if either of us have read the original, because some details are unfamiliar. As I read, Joe (remember, he's the all-around trivia god) walked through and shared that L. Frank Baum wrote Wizard of Oz in Holland, Michigan (where we live!) and also added some historical/economic context to the story being about the gold standard.

Learning from Legos:
On a final note, I shared this picture because Cutter and I were playing Legos and he noticed something that I hadn't even seen. My Lego people were to the right of the owl, representing Eden and made out of all white bricks. To the left of the owl were Cutter's people, made of all black and red bricks. In the middle, the owl, keeper of the chalice. Cutter was excited that I get this shot because he noticed that the sun shone on the owl's right half and the owl was cast in shadow on the left, a perfect image, a metaphor for our good and bad sides.

As I learned this week, education, in one reading, comes from the Latin word educere, meaning to draw out from within and I delight in finding out what draws out this 10 1/2 year old boy with whom I walk the days.

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