I want to trust the process. I really do. I want to believe that the kids will regain their natural curiosity and will want to learn without my cajoling them to. Mr. December doesn’t trust it at all—he thinks we need to push and demand. Most days we see no evidence of self-directed learning from any of the kids. And then we come to a day like today, and my faith in my children’s self-direction is renewed.
Lately E has been refusing to even look at a book with someone. I presume it’s because she doesn’t want to be asked to try to read anything. But this morning she said to me, “You know, I think I have a story I want to tell.” So I sat down at her desk and turned to the laptop she had just been using for a Zoom class.
“I’m listening,” I told her, and then I wrote her story precisely the way she told it.
I suggested that it would make a great book. She agreed on the condition that she not be made to illustrate it. I printed it out, folded it, and showed her how to sew a binding. When she was done, she looked at the book, and then at me, and whispered excitedly, “I can’t believe I wrote a book and I’m still so young!”
Then she ran off with her book to show it to everybody in the house.
Oh, did I mention that she lost a tooth?
R and K have been very sweet to N since his surgery, offering to run and fetch things or just keep him company when he’s miserable. Tonight N was hungry, and K offered to make him a smoothie. She proceeded to invent a flavour that tastes very much like green marshmallows.
“I should remember this recipe,” she remarked.
“Why don’t you just write it down?” I suggested—with absolutely no ulterior motive whatsoever.
“Oh yeah, good idea.” K said, and collected some paper and pens before sitting at the table. Then she thought for a moment and said:
“I’d better write a rough draft first so the good copy doesn’t have any mistakes.”
(Did you hear that loud thump? That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.)
You see, to call K a reluctant writer is a massive understatement. Writing assignments are usually met with resistance, then anger, then tears. She can spot a writing assignment from a mile away and will dig in her heels in preparation for the fight.
Then she surpassed herself again by asking, “Eema, do recipes count as writing?”
“Of course they do!”
“Well then, can I please write a recipe book for my next writing project?”
And with that, she dove into drafting her recipe.
When I had a concussion (most of 2019) we had to give up on violin lessons for the girls (N had already defected to piano.) It required too much pushing and coercion; Mr. December and my mum weren’t willing to fight for an hour each day to get them to practice. When K passed two lessons with her teacher in complete silence—a standoff—we cancelled all remaining lessons and withdrew from group classes. It was a serious disappointment for me.
Any time I had suggested to E that she could start playing violin again, she vehemently refused. I started to wonder whether I should just sell all the violins except mine.
And then last weekend, E invited me to play some music with her. She set up the assortment of small drums that I used when I taught mom-and-baby music, and invited me to choose any instrument. I picked violin. We improvised for a while (finally! my music therapy training comes in handy!) and then she said, “This time you play the drums and I’ll play my violin!”
And she did. I said nothing other than to comment on the music we made. No comments of approval for her picking the violin up again. I just thanked her for making music with me.
Tonight I had a few minutes to myself. I began practicing my viola while watching that the chanukah candles didn’t burn the library down. After about ten minutes I heard a tentative knock, and then E came in.
“Can we both play violin and viola together?” She asked.
It was already bedtime; I could have said that it was too late at night. But I know that you have to seize the moment when it comes, so I agreed that we could play until the Chanuka candles went out. We improvised together for five minutes or so, and E was satisfied.
“Can we do that again sometime?” She asked.
These kinds of events make me feel like Little Bo Peep. You know: “Leave them alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.”
As I said earlier, my faith in self-driven education is renewed.