Your child is asking "Why?" and seeking meaning. Listening and responding encourages refl ective thought.
Now that our children are spending more and more time in virtual reality, making connections with their minds is becoming even more important. Thinking requires an individual to formulate an idea into a conceptual thought that can be recalled and analyzed. A parent can help their child think clearly by actively participating in their learning. Listening to your child means your child will listen as well. The child is seeking meaning.
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Thinking Together With ChildrenA Tapestry of Lifelong Learning
By Jeanette Kroese Thomson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Jeanette Kroese Thomson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Birth Of Life And The Small Child
The first art of 35,000 years ago depicts a mother involved with nature. This female figurine has been found from Spain and France all the way to Germany and Russia. Made of enduring ivory, she is mysteriously faceless in her demeanor and she is pregnant. The little statue is something a woman might grasp in her hand as she goes through the earth-shaking act of childbirth. This Paleolithic art of the mother goddess is found deep in the caves. 6000 years ago at New Grange in Ireland, the deep underground chamber has a birthing stone seat facing a laser-like beam of light. In Shanidar Cave in the Zagros Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, the skeleton of a young woman lies with the evidence of individual floral bouquets placed around her.
A female giving birth must give way to nature. At some point birthing moves beyond the control of the woman to life-death awareness. This vulnerable state puts the woman into an ecstatic and eternal dimension of life. In many cases down through history the woman may have died to allow the newborn to survive. When there was only the natural process without any medical intervention, the female may have held the female figurine to have the courage and strength to survive. The older woman who knew what was to happen for the younger woman may have placed the small object into the young woman's hand. It was a passing of power for survival. The Mother Goddess symbol in this sense has nothing to do with religion; it has to do with surviving the birth of new life.
Tell me, Why, oh Why? Oh Why? Oh Why? Why, oh Why? Oh Why? Because, because, because, because.
The question of "why?" is part of the human dilemma. The little girl asks her mother, "Why?" Her mother has experienced oneness with nature in the very act of childbirth, the giving of herself in nursing at her breast, the offering of her hand to lead her daughter along the path of her first steps.
The child is asking "why?" at a beginning awareness. The question of "why?" stays in the order of rules and the realm of what she can understand. The small child is exploring new ideas and is held "in check" to her parent's sphere of understanding and cannot go beyond it. The child does understand that certain acts may be punished but is not capable of taking on the rule. The parent sets the rules. The young child is unable to consider simultaneously their own views with the perspective of others. The child asking "why?" may want to stay within the safety of the parent's thinking. The older child that says, "you are always right" may be staying under the parent's authority, rather than his or her own autonomy. The child may try to bribe the parent at some point to achieve a goal. Staying up later than the designated hour at night is one of those times when children use a particular approach that may include bribing to get their way.
Jean Piaget, the Swiss child psychologist, explains that autonomy of mutual respect is put in place by maintaining a set of rules. There are four levels of rules at this first stage of morality. Eventually by 9 or 10 years old, a cooperative state is acquired in regard to keeping rules. He believed that the child advances through the various stages of rules to cooperative decision-making and problem solving nurturing moral development by allowing young people to work out common rules based on fairness. Piaget's second stage of moral development moves to the laws of society that lead to liberty, equality, and justice for all. This will be discussed later in the book.
Amelia at two and a-half-years old has a new question for her mother, "But why?" In the beginning her mother, Dawn, answers her question as best she can for a two year's old understanding. When the same question, "but why?" starts repeating itself at every turn, Dawn one day repeats the same question back to Amelia, "But why?" With a start Amelia replies, "That's my job!" Whether her question has become a game or not, the truth is there. It is the child's job to ask questions. Sometimes to the impatience and exasperation of the adult. The mind of the small child is continually alert to the present. When something occurs to be questioned and understood, the answer is needed right now. The child is never in the mood to wait. Most times the answer can be given fairly quickly and no big detail is required. The happy child is satisfied that her world is safe and in order.
Jess at three years old, is told that soon there will be a baby arriving in their home. About a week later, Jess asks, "Where is this baby?" His mother, Dawn, pointing to her unrevealing tummy said, "Right here, Jess." Jess with amazement says, "I didn't see it go in." At three his thinking is working one hundred per cent. His father says, "Someday Jess you will call us Dad and Mom, not mommy and daddy." Now Jess is saying Mom and Dad, to the chagrin of Dawn who wishes he would still call her Mommy. Jess insists, "No, Mom and Dad." At five, he made a mathematical conclusion about his own growth with his grandfather on the telephone. His grandfather asks, "What height should I make the basketball hoop in the garage? I saw that you had grown taller." Jess replies, "I'm smaller again because I just had my hair cut!"
The dialogue between parent and child can help solve questions the child may have about what is going on. Everyday activities include a wide range of events that require adjustment and understanding for the small child. An incremental process is occurring that is molding a personality. The child is absorbing many ways of being to make decisions on their own. This includes what to eat, what to wear, what toys to play with, playing outside, places to go and see. The child is also making adjustments to adult activities and decisions. If the child is included in the dialogue and helps to make choices, there is less anxiety and frustration. It is an inclusive process between the child and parent.
At her preschool Waldorf class after her teacher presents a shadow puppetry of Billy Goat Gruff, Maya has to check under the curtain to make sure the troll is really gone. At another occasion, during an Irish St. Patrick dance, she dances in front of everyone with her own version of an Irish Folk Dance, bowing to everyone's applause.
Sionna, at two and a-half, sings This Little Light of Mine with fervor. Soon after two, she will insist at every meal that everyone sing Johnny Appleseed! A tradition in the extended family as well, she and all of her family enjoy holding hands and blessing the meal together with this simple and precious song. For the grandparents, Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City comes to mind. Arbor Day in the United States celebrates trees. Sionna's great grandfather had a farm in Nebraska. Tall one-hundred-years-old pine trees identify the farm. He planted a cedar hedge to border his farm.
The Johnny Appleseed concept can grow in the mind of a child to the preservation of rain forests, pine forests, and mixed forests. After university, our daughter, Jill, planted trees in Northern Ontario one summer to help renew the forests. Her children, Calla, Griffin, and Maya each have their own tree that they planted in their yard.
A little child begins to assert a unique approach to life much sooner than the parent thinks. The signs are sometimes very apparent as the child speaks complete sentences. "No, I don't want a waffle for breakfast, I want some toast with lots of butter." One of the first ways a parent may become aware of the child taking hold of decisions is in the kitchen. This is the place where the action is for the child. It is where the family meets first thing in the morning in some fashion or other. Jess finds a large container of cinnamon in his grandmother's kitchen. The aroma of cinnamon meets the nose of adults. Of course the cinnamon is not only on Jess, but also all around the kitchen. It is quite a way to spice things up for lots of action and talk.
The small child functions in the present. While walking in the park an ant may appear on the path. Instantly the child's attention becomes riveted. The adult walking with the child may not pay attention to this: "Hurry along Johnny. We must get to the playground before its dark." The little child is asked to move along and not take time for such a trivial insect as an ant. Another parent may say, "Watch how the ants moves along in a line. Look, there is one carrying something on its back! Do you think they may be building an ant hill?" The child might say, "What's an ant hill Daddy?" The dialogue about ants has begun. It may lead to a book about ants from the library or bookstore. It could lead to the nature store where a kit is purchased that shows ants working. This kit will help to see the colony of the ant habitation. Through the glass surface, we can see how the ant works underground down the glass surface. At the end of the day, the parent might let the child express what happened that day. These pages can be placed into a book that is accumulative. Soon, the child will want to look back at previous days to discuss earlier experiences. This is a way for the child to begin to understand the past. At the same time, a big calendar with squares for each day of the month can have special events for the future. This process allows the child to remember the past and anticipate the future. It also allows the parent access to experiences that the child might have a part from their own. Concepts will evolve and grow through discussions that develop over time. Edward Wilson is a noted naturalist and etymologist in the study of ants. He became interested in small animals as a child investigating in the woods of Alabama. In his study of ants he says they communicate by leaving a chemical trail that other ants can read with the senses of taste and smell. His keen interest in the diversity of life has led him into many different directions including deciphering the structure of the DNA, and ultimately to the protection of nature reserves. He says that the larger the reserve, the more diversity of life in that particular ecosystem. He has instigated an Encyclopedia of Life-EOL that anyone can tap into on the Internet.
Jess, at two, learns about trains. When he was less than one, he watched his grandfather's train move around the track on a basement table. In the beginning, he was frightened by it. The sound was too loud. The movement was strange. For several months, he did not pursue going to see the train. Instead, he was satisfied to go with his grandmother to hear the clock tick-tocking in the entry. It was more quiet and erythematic. The spinning wheeling went round and round expanded the rhythm. The Japanese bell's gentle tinkling sounds were repeated over and over.
His little cousin Sionna soon entered the circle with grandmother. She too loved the rhythm of the tick-tocking clock, the spinning wheel going round and the softly tinkling bell. A year later, little Maya, the next grandchild, intensively joined into the intimate experience with the clock ticking, the spinning wheel spinning and the bells tinkling and clanging. Finally, little Amelia was introduced to all the tick-tocking, spinning and clanging in the entryway.
Now all four of these children identify their grandparent's home with the playful entryway. There is instant recognition as they enter the house. Then the joy begins as they find all the nooks and crannies for hiding spaces throughout the house to play "hide and seek."
When Jess becomes three, he is completely entranced by the train in the basement. The emotion of fear ceases. Instead his understanding about trains is focused on tunnels.
Where can the concept of tunnels lead? Think about it for a minute. Where did the notion of tunnels begin? Recently when we were in Sweden, we learned that Alfred Nobel developed his family business of making dynamite by taking on the project with Swiss government for railroad and highway building through the Alps. Making tunnels through the mountains was the biggest challenge. Dynamite provided the method to open up the mountains for highways. That is how Alfred Nobel became a very wealthy man. Later on dynamite became an instrument for war. Nobel felt guilt about this aspect of his invention and developed the Nobel Peace Prize. Also the tunnel recently developed for the English Channel leads to an interesting study. After all it is a sophisticated train that moves between England and France.
Jess will be led into a complex dialogue about tunnels as he matures. Various ethical and moral issues may arise that require more in-depth discussions. Because he and his family travel, he will experience tunnels as well as human relationships in many different ways.
At the moment, Jess experiences tunnels while riding in the car with his parents. Leaving his grandparent's house in Montreal, he will experience several tunnels along the highway. When he comes back to his grandfather's train, he will be able to make new adjustments as to how the tunnel should be on the table. He goes with his grandfather to visit a neighbor who has a basement full of model trains in a landscape that includes many tunnels.
The little train moves with the help of many batteries. Jess tells his grandfather on the telephone before a visit "Make sure you have lots of batteries for the train!" The subject about the train's energy may move on to big trains-electricity versus coal. "What is coal?" "Let's see what the dictionary says. It comes from fossilized plants and is fifty percent carbon." "What kind of coal was used to make the train go?" There are two main kinds of coal-anthracite and bituminous. "Where does coal come from?" Jess might ask, as he grows older. "Let's learn it about it in our encyclopedia," John might say. "It comes from deep in the ground and starts from organic material like trees and other plants. First it is called peat. After many, many years of being buried in the ground, it turns to coal."
I remember an aside to this while studying geology. The professor asked: "How could coal be found under the North Pole where it is too cold for trees and plants to grow?" This led to a big discussion about the changing axial orientation of the earth since its beginning billions of years ago. Eventually the discussion about coal could lead to our dependence on fossil fuels for energy. A big controversy of our times is global warming because of the accumulation of carbon dioxide caused by fossil fuel.
The young child can be led to learn about trains, tunnels and coal and its implications for our earth long before going to the university by parents in easy conversation. Parents can include their children in finding ways to conserve energy in their home. They can learn to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth and not let the water run. They can understand that particular cars get better mileage and use less gas. They can choose to ride their bikes to events close to their home instead of asking their parents to drive them. Even small children can begin to understand why it is important to save energy by turning off the lights when they leave their room or the bathroom.
You might ask, "How early can a small child learn a concept?" This depends on how the parent begins to think with their child. You can engage your child into a process at quite a young age. For example, it might occur at a time when you may be sad about something. Your child sees you crying. She might ask, "Why are you crying Mommy?" As a parent you might assume that your child is too young to know about sadness. If you avoid discussing why you are sad, the child will be left wondering why you didn't answer her question. To discuss sadness, to help the child understand that sometimes mommy feels sad, is helping the child know she can feel sad too. It isn't necessary to go into detail about the specific reason. Rather, it is allowing the negative emotion to pass through a process of communication with the child. A two-years-old child can be aware of various emotions. The child is not only learning concepts about material things, but also about social and relational experiences.
Excerpted from Thinking Together With Children by Jeanette Kroese Thomson Copyright © 2011 by Jeanette Kroese Thomson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. The Birth Of Life And The Small Child....................1
2. Thinking From A Small Child....................13
3. Imagination, Dreams, Stories, Myths and Reality....................21
4. Wayland Smithy & Epona The Horsewoman....................25
5. The Child Takes Control....................37
6. Time For Reflection: The Unhurried Child....................43
7. Concepts That Change....................53
8. Dogmatic Thought: The Mind Caught In A Web....................59
9. The Marsupians: A Living and Expanding Concept....................71
10. The Mind Revealed Through Laughter, Art, Music, Nature, and Color....................79
11. Metaphor and not Prose....................89
12. Wellness: A Concept Towards Well-Being....................99
13. Human Ecology: A Study of Basic Human Needs: Food, Clothing, Shelter, & Family....................107
14. Reverence For Mother Earth: An Ancient Universal Concept....................113
15. Here and Now....................125