My son Taylor has remarked more than once that Danny Champion of the World is his all time favorite elementary read. Having a dad who is a real life inventor, I’m my son could really relate to this story. But like many young readers, I’m sure Taylor was simply drawn into Roald Dahl’s clever tale of the antics of Danny and his loving poacher/inventor dad.
Obviously Taylor did not build a habit of being for reading and writing over night. The arduous process involved days upon days of providing my son with the tools that pressed him into the work of becoming literate—in the not just able to read and write sense, but in the able to apply and create sense. The work was complex and the process was longitudinal. Looking back, providing consistent opportunity for Taylor to participate in a series of small steps, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other over time while incrementally increasing the complexity of the reading and writing expectations was key.
Still, sometimes the task of helping Taylor learn to read and write was like a game of limbo. Increase expectations too much and the pole was knocked down. Increase the expectations too little and Taylor would knock the pole off just for fun. The game all said and done, I’m pretty sure that my son’s investment in learning to not only read great stories closely, but to mine for applicable riches and learn to communicate his spoil in the form of words has strengthened his ability to bring an original idea to fruition. Taylor built a habit of being and that habit of being keeps him on his toes.
A habit of being is forged over time as our children engage in the work of learning to tackle complex processes, processes such as exploring literature and the process of mathematical problem solving, such as the process of crafting a poem or an essay or a fictional story. Establishing habits of being, best achieved slowly over time, is like transforming coal to diamond.
Habits of being spark imagination and imagination sparks curiosity and curiosity is the stuff from which we forge original ideas. And guess what? Bringing an original idea to fruition simply will not leave room for boredom.
Recently my seventeen-year-old son, Taylor, was bored.
Not for long.
One Cannon FD lens, one iPod, and a stack of cardboard. I watched my son think in threes.
The next thing I see can not exactly be captured in words. Think the bump and jolt of stop motion. Think the colorless blur of fast motion. Think the patience and precision of a piano tuner.
This mom moves into his kitchen studio on a pretense. I am not noticed scouring a counter or two to spy on his process. Soon the lens projects the screen of the iPod onto a white wall surface. Problem is the image is in reverse.
I see his interior voice utter, “Hmmm.”
Then I hear, “WAIT.”
I see my son scramble to the art cabinet and reemerge with a piece of tracing paper. He constructs a screen.
“I made an iPod television!” Suddenly my presence in the kitchen studio is acknowledged.
“Let’s see if I can get the image bigger on the screen.” A few seconds later, “Whoa! Look Mom!”
And so, the next time your child is bored, slide a book across the table. And when they’re done reading hand them paper and pencil and ask, “Now what’s your idea?”
Kimberly has been a homeschool mom for 16 years and is an advocate for reform in education. Her book, Habits of Being: Artifacts from the Classroom Guild, is a collection of snapshots from this experience woven to a philosophy of education. She is a founding partner of Blackbird & Company Educational Press, which develops and publishes innovative literature, writing, and poetry curriculum, plus collectivebanter.com, an online opportunity for young writers, visual artists, and musicians to compete and publish their work. She is also a regular contributor to fourandtwenty.typepad.com. Her writing and visual art students have received numerous awards including regional and national recognition by the Scholastic Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and have been published in online and in-print journals. Long ago the California resident, mother of four, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biological psychology and fine art, graduate training in clinical art therapy, and more recently earned her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles.