Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on July 16, 2010 at 02:02 PM

we think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome
the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.
they come together and they fall apart.
— pema chodron

We haven’t had an open thread in awhile. Want to say hello, share a story, ask a question? Comment below!


Comment by Cristina on July 16, 2010 at 08:24 PM

I think I will need to copy this quote for my daughter to read to the college advisor next week. She just couldn't pass the algebra portion of the placement exams. As she put it, she understands all the concepts, but she can't seem to recognize them when she's give a numerical problem. I think it would be the math equivalent of understanding another language and not being able to speak it (This is a problem I have.)

Wonderful, wonderful quote!
Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Susan on July 16, 2010 at 10:36 PM

Love that picture. Looks familiar. ;-)

And I always enjoy your quotes. Here's one that's framed on one of our side tables.

"Education that consists in learning things and not the meaning of them is feeding upon the husks and not the corn." - Mark Twain

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 17, 2010 at 12:34 AM

cristina, i hope the quote helps! :^) i got As in math but still did poorly on the placement exam. so i majored in english literature. :^)

i love this quote because really, we're never done, and we never reach the end, in working with children or in life. we're just entering another phase. things fall apart, and then they come together. bringing them back together gives us something to do. :^)

thanks, susan. bet it does. :^)

LOVE your twain quote — one i hadn't seen before! :^D) and so, so true. mm, maybe i'll go to the library and write that inside the front covers of all the "what your X grader needs to know". ;^)

Comment by Hayley on July 17, 2010 at 03:06 PM

Thank you so much for your wonderful blog!

I have a question. I have a 4yo daughter and a 2yo son. My daughter is very focussed and things are going well but I wonder how I can include my son when he is so much younger and not able to do the same kind of things. I don't want to just leave him out but he is happy to play in the same room with us. Should I try to start a project with him?

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 17, 2010 at 03:18 PM

thank you, hayley. :^)

i'm curious whether your son is a "young 2" or an older 2. does he show interest in your daughter's project work? is he included when you draw/paint/etc.?

i would recommend having him do the same things at his own speed and level of interest *if he wants to*. if he wants to play and is happy entertaining himself, it is wonderful that he is in the same area, being exposed to the kind of work his older sister is doing and the way the two of you talk about that work. play is work, after all. :^) and i'm sure part of what your daughter is doing for her "work" is play as well.

it is a wonderful thing for younger children to simply be in an environment where older children are happily working on something they care about, playing, building, drawing, painting, etc., and talking and sharing about what they are doing.

they can learn to respect the process, and as they are interested and able, they can begin to do the same kind of work and share it in the same way. if they learn early to respect the work of others (say, not reaching over to paint on someone else's painting :), it sends a message that their *own* work is equally important. there are many lessons and values that they simply absorb from being in a family culture that celebrates learning and doing.

re: starting a project with him, you can certainly support his interests and create space for him to explore them fully. just try to keep your expectations modest. but definitely devote time to observing his play and make notes in your journal (if you are journaling :) about how he learns/reacts to provocations/etc.

thank you for your great question — i hope this helps! please let me know how things are going. :)

Comment by Christine on July 17, 2010 at 03:30 PM

I just wanted to say thank you for your blog. I don't comment but I am reading and learning.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 17, 2010 at 09:37 PM

thank you, christine! and you just commented, so there you go. :^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 18, 2010 at 02:27 PM

barbara left a great comment at the end of "curating their experience" and i left a typically long-winded response .. check it out ..

Comment by David on July 19, 2010 at 03:52 AM

I love the Mark Twain quote that Susan posted. Thanks - I'm adding it to my quote collection! I also think the 'quiet moments in the loudness of time' passage is great - I'm putting them both up in my classroom. I think quotes such as this can be a wonderful aid in expressing a teacher's beliefs and passions and can really support your dedication and/or professionalism. I love the fact that Susan has the quote framed on a side table. They also act as a visual reminder on those days when things are a bit cloudy! :) Thanks again and if anyone else has a great quote they want to share then I'd love to hear them. Hope that's ok with you Lori?

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 19, 2010 at 01:35 PM

of course that's okay with me — i love adding to my own quote collection! :^)

here are a few of my favorites:

The whole problem with people is … they know what matters, but they don’t choose it … The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters. — Sue Monk Kidd

I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better. — Paul Theroux

Try again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett

When the adult can no longer be surprised and enthusiastic about what children do, then the role of the teacher is over for that person.

The problem, then, is to become aware of what is happening right under our eyes. — Loris Malaguzzi

Comment by Elizabeth on July 19, 2010 at 06:57 PM

The more I think about my own lousy public school experience, the more angry I get. Lori, I'm 31 years old and still don't have many of the basic skills used to run an efficient self-sustaining household. I don't know how to garden, I had to teach myself how to learn the basics of cooking, I yearn to make things for my children but had to teach myself the most basic sewing skills to make this possible. I wouldn't know what to do if I got a flat tire or my car battery died in the middle of nowhere...If my children are ailing from a common cold, I have no idea what natural remedies I can use to ease their symptoms...but I know the capitals of the 50 states. Now, I will say that for the first time in my life, I began taking my own learning in my own hands when I became a wife and mother in my early twenties and I've learned a lot and will continue to learn. But, I don't want my children to struggle to learn the life skills that I've had to learn after getting married. Let's face it, learning how to cook a healing chicken broth is WAY easier to do when you don't have a fussy child in your arms. I want to pass what I'm learning down to my children. My husband and I have a long list of all the lifeskills that we've had to learn since getting married. In fact, part of the reason I threw the boxed curriculum out the window is because I realized the trivial facts we were told were "important" was keeping me from the learning I deemed important in my vocation. The point I'm trying to make is this: I truly feel that the life skills I'm speaking about are important for my children to learn. It's one of those things that I think that even if my daughter says she's not interested in learning, she needs to know these things. Ideally, she will learn these things in the course of our ordinary days together, but is there a way to do it within the context of project learning?

Comment by Naomi on July 19, 2010 at 06:59 PM

I just read that you have an airstream camper! My husband Really wants one. We're actually soon to be in the market for a camper for five (I drool over any camper with bunk beds!) Anyway, you can read more about our plans for our family at I've enjoyed reading your blog - you have some great thoughts and I value your ideas and quotes on family life.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 19, 2010 at 07:19 PM

elizabeth, project learning is, by definition, learning that is instigated and managed by the child, growing out of her own passionate interests. so maybe not there. :^)

however, i agree with you completely re: wanting to pass along those life skills regardless of whether your daughter is terribly interested or not! :^) i do think it's easier to pass along those skills if it is in the spirit of love and mentoring and done with a sense of family warmth and fun. learning to cook, do laundry, keep a clean home, garden, take care of pets, manage money, drive, budget, do shopping, nurse the sick, care for elderly family members, etc. etc.

i also agree with you that off-the-rack education can be severely wanting, not only in things you personally find it worthwhile to know, but in things the general public *needs* to know .. like diet and health .. like personal finance.

hs'ing allows you to craft a one-off curriculum based on your own family values, and personally i believe children respond strongly to hearing their parents say "this is important .. that's why i'm teaching it to you" when it comes to those life skills. my sons are always saying they won't leave home until they know how to cook all their favorite dishes. ;^)

naomi, yes, we looove our airstream. it's a '73. :^) ours has two twin beds in the center and a double bed up front. there is a bunk-bed model but it's pretty rare .. lots of people make their own bunks, though!

i hope you find the perfect camper for you! we mostly travel now in our vintage vw van .. it allows us to be more nimble. :^)

Comment by Deirdre on July 30, 2010 at 04:49 AM

Just soaking all this in and loving it.

Wondering if you saw Garrison Keillor's recent piece that ended with this:

If your kid flunked out of school, don’t worry about it. Teach him to love his life. Teach her to do good work and not expect recognition. Not smart? No problem. Be useful. That may be better for humanity than to be brilliant and troubled. And it wouldn’t hurt you to smile more. Just do it. Thank you

I think he was basically trying to make the point of "Nothing without Joy".

We're away from home for 3 months this summer. We brought very little with us, the less is more truth showing in most aspects---spending more time outside exploring, etc. I find my 5 yr old overflowing with questions and ideas, just as his 8 yr old brother did at this age. I don't need to suggest a thing, he brings me folder paper and asks me to write the story he dictates to me.

But my oldest, who once couldn't go 24 hrs without sketching something, now goes from book to book, reading them so quickly there is rarely time to discuss never mind draw and create. I'm listening for questions and interests, but he seems to be in a stage that is utterly foreign to me---just wanting to either move (basketball/swimming/baseball) or take things in (movies/reading). I'm trying to be trusting and patient (neither of which come very easily to me) but worry, wondering where did my creative little boy go?

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 30, 2010 at 02:05 PM

deirdre, loooove the g.k. quote.

niente senza goia .. nothing without joy .. but also .. there is more to life than school! flunking out of school doesn't mean you are worthless, as so many smart and famous people have proved. seems like a happy life should be the number one thing we want for our children and making use of one's intelligence/abilities is a part of that, but not the whole.

i think your instinct re: your oldest son is right .. he is in a stage. he is madly soaking things up; at some point he will begin to create again. it is tricky parenting these children who just won't stop growing and changing, even when we think we've gotten a handle on things at last. :^)

my oldest son has repeatedly turned away from things he once loved, saying he doesn't like that/do that anymore -- sketching (no!), hiking (no!!), just *being outside* (nooo!!!). :^) but i can happily report that he eventually went back to all of them .. in his own time. i think we have to let them decide who they are and what they care about, as they figure it out themselves .. and trust that their essential selves will win out. we have to want to know who they are more than we want to decide who they are, right? and many of us are, after all, still figuring out who we are. :^)

darn it, this process takes a lot of trust. ah well. :^)

Comment by Anne Thrall-Nash on August 7, 2010 at 04:38 AM

I want to respond to some of what Elizabeth was saying about life skills. I grew up in a household of makers and doers. My mother is a seamstress and fabric artist, my father a master tinkerer and builder of things. I did lots of making as a child, but don't remember actively learning many of the skills my parents have. However, as I have become a mother and started wanting to do things like can food and sew, those skills have come bubbling out of me. It's like I picked things up through years of osmosis. Your children will learn life skills from you, whether you think they are paying attention or not

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 7, 2010 at 04:55 PM

i think you're right, anne, that family *values* transfer, even when specific skills don't (for instance, if you don't really remember how to can tomatoes, but you remember canning with your mother and grandmother). when you pick up some skills as an adult, the memories that come back may be rich with inherited *meaning* rather than specific memorized steps.

i think elizabeth was remarking mostly on the fact that she herself didn't get exposed to those basic life skills when she was growing up. (elizabeth, feel free to correct me. :)

i do think just being *around* the activities matters. i, for one, wouldn't force my boys to help me can tomatoes. i hated being forced to weed the garden when i was growing up, and it made me stay away from something i love for a long time, because it was tainted with so many bad memories. i try to introduce them to things without making them a chore. later in life, if they become gardeners, they will hopefully remember the enjoyable times we had together in the garden, even if they need to look up how to pinch back tomatoes!

Comment by Anne Thrall-Nash on August 7, 2010 at 05:30 PM

I hated weeding too! And I'm still not that enthused about gardening. But I also used to HATE fabric stores, and now I love them. My parents did a great job of creating a family culture of making and I think my mother especially is gratified to see that coming to fruition in me ( and my brother)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 7, 2010 at 09:07 PM

oh my gosh, i hated the fabric store, too. lolol

it's funny to me how much family in our society has turned around in the last 30 years. when i was a kid, everything was centered around the adults and the kids just tagged along or got pushed outside to play. now everything is reversed, and most family life centers around the kids and their activities. interesting.

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