Category Archives: Philosophy

On children and parents – more from the Contented Crafter

In a previous guest post Pauline King, The Contented Crafter shared her Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school. The richness of the discussion that ensued, including additional clarifying comments from Pauline, made for interesting reading. One thing I have found consistent throughout life is that everyone has an opinion about education and schools. However, there is great diversity in the opinions held. I love to hear them all for the opportunity they provide for clarifying my own thinking.

In this second guest post Pauline shares some of her wisdom about children and parenting. Pauline and I share much of the same philosophy and background knowledge and are aware that some statements may require clarification out of that shared context. We therefore welcome your responses and look forward to the discussion that these thoughts may instigate.

What do you think is the most important thing for parents to understand about their children? What advice would you love to give every new parent?

I seriously think every parent should read and study Khalil Gibran’s chapter about Children in his poem ‘The Prophet’.  Children are not just short adults; they are not there to fulfil a parents dreams [though they may]. 

Kahlil Gibran Children(Note: This is just a short extract of Gibran’s words about children. You can read them in full here)

Children need to be allowed to enjoy their childhood, let them play, let them dream, let them imagine.  Very little ones learn through imitation and play so be careful what you model for them. 

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Send them into formal learning when they reach their seventh year.  But let that learning proceed through imagination, through practical practise and first-hand experience.  Let the education content grow and deepen as the child matures.  Don’t just stuff stuff into their heads because you think it’s a good idea or something awful has happened in the world. 

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Don’t discuss adult issues with young children.  Keep them safe and secure while their bodies and brains mature.  Give them time to grow up. 

Parents study your child and all other children.  Raising children is not a competition.  It is not a case of keeping your child safe and clean and out of your way while you are busy.  Think more of ‘The Waltons’ and let each child have a task to perform to help the family.  Teach them all how to help prepare meals, set tables, make beds and other chores that need to be done. 

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Start to think less about how clever [or not] your child is, but what talents and attributes your child is exhibiting.  Don’t stream, let them all do everything and let everyone have something they are good at and see there is something that someone else is better at – because that is the way of the world and we all have contribution to make and our lessons to learn.  Understand that just as your child is special, all children are special. Understanding this is the first step in making a wholesome community.

Don’t be fearful of your child hurting themselves.  As a wise man recently said ‘the purpose of our lives is not to arrive safely at our death!’ 

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My personal opinion is that the increase in a society that reveres ‘health and safety’ has been responsible for the rise of lost teenagers, those aimless, disinterested kids who suffer from low self-esteem, drinking and drug taking and mindless vandalism.  Take your older kids camping, hiking, abseiling.  Do it with them and have lots of fun.  Give them physical challenges and the ability and skills to succeed in them.  It really is true that the family who plays together, stays together.

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But mostly love and respect your child.  Keep them safe when they are small and slowly teach and release them as they grow older.  Feed them good food, positivity and encouragement and watch them blossom into the people they were born to be.

Give them time and lots of your time.  They don’t need stuff and they don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.  They just need you.

In responding to a previous post you said that you could write a post-length comment about the wisdom of children. Could you share a few ideas about that here. We might come back to that longer post in the future, if you are willing.

Observe your children, listen to them, know they are their own little being and as such bring their own personality and gifts into the world.  Watch how they approach life and activities and you will see they have come with a wisdom about themselves and their purpose that we, the adults, may not be privy to.  This is the wisdom of childhood and we, as parents and teachers, are really beholden to respect this and not try to ‘change’ the child to suit us, society or anything else. 

Most teachers know that most children reach similar developmental points at around the same time.  There is a great wisdom in this and when we become aware of it, it can help us understand what they are ready for in terms of learning, activities and life in general. 

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All of this Norah, is part and parcel of the training of a Steiner Teacher – understanding child development is the open secret that drives the curriculum. 

Wow! Thank you, Pauline, for sharing your wisdom. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of my favourite books and his passage about children is never far from my mind. Your words in this post reflect very much the words and intent of his. You have given us much to think upon, and I appreciate it, as I’m sure the readers do too.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

 Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Which school? I found one!

school cropped

Most parents want to provide what is best for their children. However, they don’t always know what that best is, where it is available or how to get it. This is just as true of schooling as it is of anything else. Fortunately, most children are adequately schooled locally, be it at a state or privately run facility.

I attended a Catholic school and have taught in both the Catholic and State systems. I see little real difference between what is offered in local private and local public schools as far as philosophy, pedagogy and quality of teaching goes. The differences, as I see them, are more due to the inequities in funding for facilities and resources, the restriction to accessibility by the imposition of fees, and the ability of privately run organisations to decline students as opposed to the state’s willingness to cater for all.

While I think most schools do an excellent job of schooling, there are aspects I don’t like.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Fortunately, most children survive school and graduate adequately prepared for life in the adult world. But the scarring carried by many, whether visible or hidden, emotional or intellectual, is a cost that should not be accepted.

In this TED talk Sir Ken Robinson asks “Do Schools Kill Creativity? He explains why he thinks they do and the manner in which they do it. He ends the talk saying,

“our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. … we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. “

By the time Bec was born I had already decided that I wanted more than schooling for her. I had read voraciously about learning and education. I had observed the magic of learning as my son wondered, questioned, explored and reignited my own curiosity, during his before school years. I saw those same traits inhibited by uninspiring teachers. I have written about this before here and in an article published in a teachers’ magazine when Bec was of school starting age. At that time, it was necessary to make decisions about her ongoing education.

To school or not to school

I had already explored local (and not-so local) alternatives. I attended information sessions, read their publications (no Google back then), and visited schools to observe their practices and speak with teachers, children and parents. Disappointingly I found none that met all of my criteria.

Some “schools” provided little stimulus or input to extend or challenge children’s thinking. Some were very structured and without flexibility in their approach. Some that claimed to be alternative appeared to be not so with uniforms and strict rules and timetables. Some that claimed to be mainstream were more child-focused with an organic curriculum matched to children’s interests, but lacked other things I sought.

When the pluses and minuses of each were considered, there wasn’t one with a compelling scoresheet. There was nothing for it but to found my own, a possibility I had been contemplating for some time and a “dream” shared by many teachers. The Centre of Learning Opportunities was born. These are some of the original documents drawn up by the team back then.

Vision

Symbol

outside

COLO brochure inside

While working to establish this alternative to school, I began an MPhil research project “Educational Diversity: Why school? What school?” which, as well as exploring educational alternatives, was to record the first year of an (my) alternative school. As part of the project I conducted a survey of local alternative schools with the aim of recording the diversity of approaches available in order to demonstrate that there is more than one way to obtain a quality education.

Although the degree went down the same dead end path as the school, I was able to (self) publish and distribute the results of my research to participating schools in a document titled “Diversity in Schooling: Discovering educational alternatives in South-East Queensland.” (Surprise, surprise, I have just discovered it in a Google search. How weird is that!)

Diversity

I was reminded of my research and this document by a recent discussion with Pauline King, The Contented Crafter in response to my post Life — A “choose your own” adventure. When I alluded to the wisdom of young children and “our” efforts to obliterate it, Pauline agreed and suggested that she could do a post-long comment on the topic.  I jumped at the chance and immediately invited her to do so. Pauline again agreed but suggested I refine a set of questions as she could fill a book with her ideas. I”m working on it.

Responding to The Industrious Child Pauline wrote,

“Teachers need to be SO flexible in their ability to see their world, their work, their class as a whole and their individual students – it is never a one step process and different expectations and challenges can be laid down for different abilities. Almost every child will shine somewhere within the curriculum and many struggle somewhere else. After all, we all have our different talents and abilities. Schools are structured to meet the needs of a certain academic ability and those who fall above or below that parameter are, in my opinion, so often mis-educated.”

It is obvious that Pauline, Ken Robinson, and I, along with many others, are part of the same revolution.

In another comment on my post I found it first Pauline shared that she had spent many years trying to establish a school of her own but had found “an already working alternative system and never regretted it.”

I think I have questions enough for Pauline to fill a book’s worth of posts and look forward to sharing some of these in the future. If you have questions of your own, please pop them into a comment and we’ll see what we can do.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Life — A “choose your own” adventure?

This morning Hub mentioned a book he had read about and asked if I had heard of the author Wayne Dyer. “Of course,” I replied and proceeded to explain that I had read many of Dyer’s books, had gone to a seminar to hear him speak and had been swept off my feet by accompanying speaker Deepak Chopra. I mentioned that a favourite book of his was marked now by a gap on my shelves, a phenomena recently mentioned by both Caroline Lodge, who blogs at book word and talked about missing books, and Anne Goodwin, who blogs at annethology and talked about the dilemma of lending books.

Wayne Dyer

I think there may be more than one missing from my self!

Deepak Chopra

I think. looking at these titles, its time for some re-reading!

This favourite book, read and lent many times, What Do You Really Want for Your Children? was very influential in shaping the way I parented and taught. It is one of a few books that I read and re-read with a highlighter and sticky notes. There was much in it for me to get my head around. While I am unable to now refer to it for its wisdom, one of the things that I remember most was a hypothetical letter from a child thanking parents for the way they had parented. I considered it a letter any parent would love to receive, personalised of course.

As often happens, Hub got the long (love) story as it tumbled out in a torrent of reminiscences and of joys in discovering inspiring minds. When I paused long enough to take a breath, I remembered to ask about the book to which he referred. He said it was about the recollections of past lives as told by young children, of children choosing their parents and of being in heaven.  Later research informs me that the book is Memories of Heaven, subtitledChildren’s astounding recollections of the time before they came to Earth.

I had previously, many years ago, heard the suggestion that children choose their parents. I like to think (though don’t believe) that my children chose me, and often thank them for doing so. They have taught me a lot about life. I am a strong believer in the wisdom of young children: if we are attentive and take the time to observe and listen, we can learn much from them. Sometimes it seems they enter the world with wisdom but “we” do our best to obliterate it as quickly as we can.

As it is wont to do, my thinking followed a circuitous path with if, buts, maybes and questions. Children choosing parents may be a nice idea; but what of the children living in poverty, with famine, and in war-torn areas? Why would anyone choose those conditions?

That question led me through my basic understanding of the Buddhist philosophy in relation to karma and rebirth. I have read a few books on the subject but don’t profess to have any real knowledge. I don’t like to think that these situations may be endured as the result of bad karma from a previous life, and am not even sure if they would be viewed that way in Buddhist thinking. Perhaps these situations could be an improvement on the previous, a step to the next? Maybe that’s not so unpleasant a thought.

Dalai LamaTibetan book of living and dying

I like the idea of improvement, of always learning, of striving for perfection and enlightenment. It is probably one of the reasons that the “yet” thinking of a growth mindset fits nicely into my philosophy. It explains why one of my favourite books (I almost wrote “of all time” – what would that say about me and my past lives?) is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, who dedicated the book “To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all”.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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I had always thought that being a bird would be pretty amazing with the freedom to fly above the world and look down upon its beauty. Maybe this is one reason Jonathan’s story appealed to me. Perhaps it explains the analogy of flight in my poem about education. Maybe it’s why I love to sit at an airplane’s window and marvel at the scenes below.

education-is-2

And so my thoughts meandered, drifting through clouds and pockets of time, until they were suddenly interrupted by the voice of the child next door singing, “Let it go”.

I think those three words “Let it go” may be the only ones that anyone sings along with, but the message of the song is powerful: to let go of insecurities and realise the potential within; don’t care “what they’re going to say” and acknowledge that “It’s time to see what I can do”.

Slide1

The message is not unlike that of Jonathan Seagull: to stretch beyond the limits imposed by others and their labels and to attain self-realisation. It is a journey undertaken by most thinking people, as demonstrated by the identity crisis that has befallen Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark. What is that if not a call for release from chains that may bind to enable the freedom for flight?

The end of a year is generally a time for reflecting on what has been achieved and what is yet to be. Perhaps it is also a time for letting go in preparation for what lies ahead.

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I hope that, as you reflect, you are happy with what you have achieved, with where you are, and with the path that lies ahead. I wish you a safe, fun and fruitful journey along the “road to find out”.

I have enjoyed your company this year and appreciate your feedback. The conversations are what keep me going, growing and learning. Thank you. I look forward to the journey continuing.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

The magic of Christmas, “Bah humbug”!

Santa and bear

At this time of year in many places around the world there are children excited about the magic of Christmas. I don’t know the numbers to compare but there are a good few, mainly adults I suspect, who say “Bah humbug!” While I was once a firm believer in the magic and did my best to keep it alive, I now tread warily, unsure of how best to approach this topic. As a parent I didn’t get it right so can offer no wisdom of my own.

After many years of seeming to go along with the story, long after I thought it should have been abandoned, Daughter finally questioned why, if the stories weren’t true, would parents lie to their children.  She preceded her question with the request to not say if it was true or not, she just wanted to know why parents would lie.

I let her down on both counts. I told her the truth of the story and couldn’t explain why parents would lie. I’m not sure that I’ve been forgiven for either failing, and I have never stopped thinking about what may have been a better way of handling the situation if I was ever offered the opportunity for a do-over.

Interestingly I don’t recall having any similar concerns about my parents lying or disillusionment on finding out the truth. Daughter’s older brother voiced no concerns either, but I cannot be certain whether or not he had any. Until now when, with children of his own, the issue again is raised.

At first Son’s intention was to not engage in Santa stories; but with one child at school and the other in kindy the situation becomes more complex. The children are more exposed to the stories through friends and organized events and there is the concern about “spoiling” things for other families. Caught between the pressures of a shared popular culture and the questions of intelligent, critical thinking children, the parents must make a decision. I sympathize and wish them better success than I experienced. I have suggested to Son that he consult his sister. She knows better than I about this one and can maybe help him avoid making the mistakes with his children that I made with her.

musical Santas

There is a lot of well-intentioned advice on the internet, but the value of some is debatable. Many explain the Santa story as being about love, kindness and generosity, and the magic as the assistance given by many helpers, including parents, throughout the world. Many explanations are likely based on the famous response, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, to an 8-year old’s letter, the authenticity of which has been questioned.

Some of the explanations and stories encountered recently include:

Feeling the magic by Autism Mom

The Sweetest Way to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa by Sharon Silver

Santa’s Powerful Message For Boy With Autism “It’s OK to be you” by Dominique Mosbergen

A Sweet Story About the True Meaning of Christmas shared by Noelle Granger

As much as I love the sentiments of these stories, they don’t really help me with my truth or lie dilemma. So I returned to a post by philosopher Michelle Sowey  HO HO HO! (Q.E.D.) in which she questioned the ethics of the Santa lie. I shared this post previously in April 2014.  Michelle agrees that the attempt at compromise in many of the explanations, It’s Santa, Jim, but not as we know him, is unsatisfactory because:

  • the historical figure St Nicholas is omitted
  • Christmas for most children is more about receiving than giving
  • of a conviction that children should be encouraged to believe in things that are real (visible or invisible, tangible or intangible) and to disbelieve in things that aren’t (all of which are invisible), and
  • it is better to develop critical thinking than to believe in intangible things.

She says,

“Parents can be powerful advocates for their children’s intellectual autonomy. They can help their kids to draw their own well-reasoned conclusions; to value coherence and logical consistency (among other things) in the construction of their worldviews; and to cleave to their beliefs with a level of confidence proportional to the amount and quality of evidence available.

With a little analysis and reflection – perfectly accessible to an eight-year-old – it’s clear that believing in things without good evidence often means believing in things that aren’t true.”

Santas

Okay. We agree on that, but how would a parent extricate themselves from the myth once they have become entangled?

When I re-read her post I noticed Michelle has, just this month, added a postscript linking to an article by ethicist David Kyle Johnson who asks the question DO PARENTS WHO TELL THEIR KIDS ABOUT SANTA END UP ON THE NAUGHTY LIST?

David says that parents who lie to their children by supporting the myth are not necessarily bad parents (thank you!) but they would be better parents if they didn’t.

He adds to Michelle’s list with these:

  • Children should thank their parents, who have purchased and sacrificed, not Santa; “gifts are the giver’s way of showing the recipient that he or she has worth and is loved. Children need assurance their parents see them as worthwhile and valuable – not Santa Claus.”
  • Santa shouldn’t be used as a threat e.g. stop doing that (bad behaviour) or Santa won’t come
  • It stifles imagination because you can’t pretend if you believe: “By tricking children into actually believing Santa exists we rob them of the opportunity to imagine he does.”
  • And the big one: the loss of trust “Finding out their parents have lied to them about Santa Claus can cause children to think their parents are lying to them about a great many other things.” He says it is probably a bigger risk than most parents realize.

You can read more of David’s thoughts about the myth in this excerpt from his book The Myths that Stole Christmas.

David says that the tradition of Santa and gift giving is relatively recent and “sold” to consumers primarily for financial reasons. He urges parents to stop tricking their children into believing the myth. My experience supports that, and I wonder how I would go about it if I had the opportunity again.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” While she suggests it could be used it to honor or memorialize a loved one, I thought I would attempt to shed light on the Santa myth and its potential for harm. Hopefully it’s not too far off the mark as I always loved, and protected, this myth; but perhaps a decision to protect the intelligence and critical thinking of my loved ones, and children in general, is even more important.

How true?

“What shall we read tonight?” asked Dad.

Jimmy searched the shelf for something he hadn’t heard before. There weren’t many. Suddenly he found one, slid it off the shelf and nestled into Dad’s lap.

“Twas the night before Christmas …” began Dad.

“Who…, what…, where…, why…, how…,?” began Jim, marveling at flying reindeer and pondering possible destinations.

As Dad closed the book Jimmy was ready with his usual question, “Is it true?”

“What think you?”

“As true as a fire-breathing dragon, a flower-petal fairy, and a talking animal,” laughed Jim; then added, “But you know, parrots really can talk!”

Christmas 2014

 

For whichever December festival you celebrate, and in whichever way you celebrate it, I wish you peace, joy and love enough to light up your world.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Who wouldn’t be excited with high test scores?

Regular readers of my blog are aware of my attitude to didactic top-down, content and assessment driven methods of schooling students to become machines regurgitating meaningless facts on command. A bit of push and shove it in and belch it out.  For those of you who weren’t aware – now you are!

I probably should apologise for my indecorous description as I’m usually a little more temperate in the way I express my views, but I won’t as that is how I am feeling about it at the moment. The authorities who have the power to make the changes necessary are so caught up in their own murky visions that they fail to see either effects or solutions. Every time I read another report of test scores or hear of another child damaged by a faulty system my frustration grows.  It becomes one of those hysteria blossoming days.

bag

A few moments ago I read a post titled “Vietnam Wallops US on PISA. Vietnamese educators belittle value of PISA” on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Ravitch is an education historian.

As the title suggests, Vietnamese fifteen year old students did better than their US, UK and most other EU counterparts in the 2012 PISA tests, ranking 12th out of 76. What I found interesting about the article was not the results but the attitude of Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Education and Training. His view that the tests don’t reflect students’ overall competence, reminded me of a letter, shared in my previous post, written by teachers to students sitting the national tests last week in Australia. (PISA are international tests).

In the article referred to by Ravitch, Dr Giap Van Duong was reported as making reference to UNESCO’s four pillars of learning: Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to be and Learning to live together. His opined that PISA addresses only the first pillar, and in only a limited way. He said that while Vietnamese students did well on the tests, “many … students fail to land a job after graduation. (and that when) they study overseas, many have difficulties in meeting the requirements of advanced education systems like team-work, problem solving and creativity”. Perhaps they are not “out of basement ready” as described by Yong Zhao.

Duong said that the reason Vietnamese students do well on the tests is because the “The whole system operates to serve only one purpose: exams.”

Duong’s admission that Vietnamese students lack the ability to work in teams, to problem solve and to think creatively reiterates the fears of many teachers who are  ruled by expectations of high test results and provided little opportunity to inspire learning, which surely remains the real (if neglected) purpose of education. Counterbalancing one’s philosophy with an employer’s expectations sometimes seems like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about rocks and hard places. But Charli knows that good can often spring from those seemingly hard places through making connections. She has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection.

It is connections that are most important in my two main roles in life: parent and teacher. Neither is easy and neither will result in much good without making connections. I often worry about things I have said and the affect they may have had on others. To be truthful, occasionally it even keeps me awake at night. While I would rather think of my words and actions creating a positive ripple, there is no guarantee that, even when delivered with my best intentions, they won’t do harm.

Trevor Pilgrim shared a quote which puts it this way:

What-a-teacher-writes-on

In his article Pilgrim says,

“teachers have (the power) to develop their students and shape their future lives.  The power to turn them on or off academically, stimulate or dampen their minds and heighten or destroy their engagement and intellectual curiosity.”

Scary stuff!

At about the same time I read an article that said that the influence of teachers is not as great as one might think; that socio-economic status, amongst other things, is more important. While I am happy with the thought of having a positive effect, I definitely do not wish to ruin anyone’s life so am happy to know that my influence is not be the most important to the lives of my students.

For this challenge of Charli’s I am back thinking about Marnie’s art teacher and the hard place she found herself in when she saw the brown muddy mess that Marnie seemed to have made of her paints. That she must respond is a given; but how? Whatever she says will probably have a lasting impact so she must ensure that her response is appropriate. While her initial instinct is to express disappointment, she maintains her professional composure and delays commenting until she has thought it through.

Here is my response:

Brown.

She glanced at the child, usually so eager to please, and knew this was no ordinary day.

Downcast and avoiding eye contact, the child trembled. Her instinct was to reach out with comfort to soothe the hurt; but stopped. Any touch could end her career. What to say? Brown earth/brown rocks? would ignore and trivialise the pain. Any talk now would be insensitive with other ears listening. Any word could unravel the relationship built up over time. Nothing would harm more than doing nothing. Her steps moved her body away but her heart and mind stayed; feeling, thinking.

 Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction

Finding meaning

Always look on the bright side of life’ is a philosophy to which I aspire. Many think I have achieved it but they don’t know how hard I struggle. I do try to find the good in people and situations, but it’s not always my first and instinctive reaction. When I realise I’ve reacted negatively I try to change or hide my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. But it’s not always easy to convince myself, regardless of whether I convince anyone else or not.

It reminds me of a quote on a laundry bag which has stayed with me in eight different homes in three different states and for well more than thirty years. After all this support I have finally thought to seek out the source of the wisdom and found it to be UK poet and playwright Christopher Fry.

bag

I feel the quote represents me quite well; doing what I can to hold it all together and keeping those negative instincts in check by ‘nipping them in the bud’, all the while fearful of one day just losing it and letting it all out in one mighty swoosh. I guess the expectation of fewer years remaining in which I will need to keep myself contained makes me a little optimistic. (Always look on the bright side!)

I like to think I’m more of a hopeful realist than either a Pollyanna or a negative realistic. A discussion about optimism and pessimism followed a previous post in which I asked How much of a meliorist are you?  But meliorism is more a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans than an optimistic or pessimistic expectation of the outcome.

I believe that humans have an amazing potential for improving our world (i.e. every aspect of it). That makes me a meliorist. Recognising what is happening in the world now makes me a realist. A belief that human actions will make improvements in the future makes me an optimist, but not one without some pessimistic fears. While stories of terrorism, climate change and violence fuel the fears, stories like this TED talk by Tasso Azevedo show that improvements can be, and are being, made.

I am an education meliorist. I believe that education is a powerful agent for change and has an enormous potential for improving lives. My optimism that education will impact positively upon individual lives as well as the collective human situation outweighs my pessimism about the outcomes I see in current systemic trends and leads me to seek out educators, like Ken Robinson, Chris Lehmann , Michael Rosen, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and Rita Pierson who share my vision of what could be.

A quest to improve my own life and the lives of others through education has been a long time passion. Ensuring that my own children experienced the benefits of learnacy, though I hadn’t heard of the term at the time, as well as literacy and numeracy was of great importance to me. I encouraged them to question, to create, to think critically, to read, to learn, to wonder . . .  There is so much we teach our children the list goes on. It is very rewarding for me to see that they have a love of learning and are passing that same love on to the next generation.

Having, sharing and fostering a lifelong love of learning perhaps in some ways contributes to giving meaning to my life. But it also leads me to question life and its purpose in ways that many others don’t.  This questioning can lead to a sense of unease, of lacking fulfilment, of needing to do and achieve more. I know others who better accept the way things are, accept each day as it comes, and are content in their existence. Sometimes I envy their complacency.  Other times I want to shake them and make them realise that there is more to life than this.

But am I wrong? Is there actually less to life than this? It is sometimes said that there is no point in accumulating wealth and possessions as you can’t take them with you when you go. But is there any point in accumulating a lot of learning and knowledge? After all, you can’t take it with you when you go either; but like wealth and possessions, you can leave it behind for future generations. If we lived only for what we could take with us, would there be a point?

I guess what matters is what helps each of us reach that level of contentment, of being here and now in the present moment because, after all, it is all we ever have.

I often think about life, existence, why we are here and the purpose of it all, constantly wavering between seeing a point and not. A recent discussion with a friend about her feelings of emptiness and needing to find more purpose and meaning in life disturbed my approaching, but elusive, equilibrium again. Will I ever reach that blissful and enviable state of contentment: knowing and accepting who I am, where I am, where I am going and how I am going to get there? Who knows? But I can have fun figuring it out. I am determined to enjoy the journey. I don’t think there will be much joy at the end!

Which is all very timely with the current flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch who talks about actions that we take to reach our goals and challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being.

I hope you enjoy my response.

Being, positive

“It’s positive,” he said.

She smiled. She knew. She only needed official confirmation.

He wanted dates. She supplied.

But she knew the very moment an unexpected but welcome spark enlivened her being with its playful announcement, “Surprise! I’m here!”

She’d carried the secret joy within her for weeks, never letting on, keeping it to herself, waiting. No one would have believed her without proof. But with her whole being she knew.

Finally, after nine inseparable months, she held the child, distinct and individual. She marvelled at the tiny creation whose existence breathed purpose and meaning into hers.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post and flash fiction.

The Question X Revisited

Tomorrow, 20 November 2014, is UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day. Celebration of the day “underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.”
In recognition of the day I am reblogging a recent post from The Philosophy Foundation which discusses the differences between open and closed questions and explains the greater value of The Question X.
The importance of encouraging children to ask questions has been a recurring theme on my blog (here, here, here and here) , as has the need to encourage them to think for themselves rather than to become experts at regurgitating force-fed information (here and here).
The discussion of The Question X gave me a lot to think about. Maybe it will do the same for you.
Happy thoughts and thinking on World Philosophy Day 2014!

philosophyfoundation

We read this blog ‘Closed Question Quizzing, Unfashionable Yet Effective‘ by Andy Tharby the other day. The virtues of closed questioning are well known to The Philosophy Foundation as they are central to our philosophical questioning approach, so we wanted to share this extract taken from a chapter entitled ‘If it, Anchor it, Open it up: A closed, guided questioning technique‘ that Peter Worley has written for the forthcoming book The Socratic Handbook ed. Michael Noah Weiss, LIT Verlag, 2015. Some of these ideas were first written about in The Question X published in Creative Teaching and Learningand available here: The Question X. In this blog Peter has developed some of the ideas written about in The Question X.

Plato’s Socrates asks many closed questions – questions that elicit a one-word or short answer such as ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘Paris’. Dip in to any of the dialogues…

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