Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Staying Close to Nature

Nicolas and the boys went to meet my father tonight at a Braves game.

I stayed home to catch up on stuff (as if that's possible) and to enjoy the quiet. Plus, the truth is, I am still a Red Sox fan and don't get so excited about the Braves.

I listened to Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food [yes, I did write down the wrong book title last night, if anyone is returning here. I am that unaware at times:>/ ], while I cleared out the kids' closets. I liked his Omnivore's Dilemma better, but that may because I had already heard a lot of what he is talking about in "Defense of Food" through the Weston Price information. One part of his message is - don't decide what to eat based upon the advise of the nutritionists (who so often are wrong - due to lots of factors that he talks about) but rather, pick your food based on the common sense of what your ancestors and you, knew/know to be true - lots of fruits and vegetables are a good thing, eat meat and dairy more sparingly, and savor your food rather than thinking of it as nothing but a source of fuel. Stay as close to the food's natural state as possible; avoid processed food.

I was so lucky to learn much of this from my mother-in-law, Helen, starting 15 years ago when I first met Nicolas. I had been one of those who avoided too much fat and thought that processed foods were fine if they had the right labels. I lost 20 pounds as a result of switching to organic food and quitting my low-fat diet.

But I know that those who read here may know all this. What I wanted to talk about today are my boys, and how inspired I am to trust nature (rather than the "experts") by watching them joyfully exploring and learning. They both woke up with lots of creative energy this morning. They each chose to write, right away, for at least an hour on the computers. They are both writing books. Gillen drew an Iris and finished his first crocheted bag to sell at the market.
Jesse made more cards for his game.The fact that they chose all of this was not unusual but was highlighted today by an unnatural learning experiment I tried last week, while helping Jesse with his project for the online "Road Less Traveled" science fair. The online fair was great (for them as well) despite my interference. And I once again learned about learning. They had both said that they wanted to write something for it on their blogs. Jesse wanted to write about pandas and Gillen wanted to write about why "organic" is better. Great. Except that when I was in the library that week, helping Jesse look for a kids' cookbook, I happened upon the science fair book section (who knew), and all that expert advise seemed way better than my common sense. I checked out the whole section. I'd never been to a science fair. The experiments, and the book covers, were so exciting. I looked through them with Jesse and encouraged him to choose one. His old love of dinosaurs and of everything that goes with that period prompted him to choose a puzzle of all of the continents that would show how they might have fit together when they were Pangea. Sounded fun. I got the big map of the world off of the wall and gave him tracing paper and a pencil. It was while I was preparing dinner for those visiting documentary film makers last week that he chose to do the tracing. He kept running into the kitchen, interrupting whatever conversation was happening with a rushed "excuse me, but you won't believe it!" And then he would describe to me what he had figured out about which continents had the same shorelines.

Days later, I was showing him how to transfer the tracings to white paper (since I have only dark cardboard that won't show his pencil marks if he tries to transfer the continents onto it). After just one continent, he was mooooaning. I helped him, but he continued with dramatic whimpering. I was also helping Gillen who was happily searching online for links to add to his project. Jesse's project had become a chore, busy work, a list of things still to do to finish the instructions in the hallowed science fair book. He had already experienced the exciting moments of seeing the connections, days ago. I was too busy knocking things off my list to just let it be. I finished the tracing and the cutting and he sat down with the paper continents to try to make a puzzle. Nothing connected. Not the pieces and not the mental light bulbs.

Finally, I stopped running around and sat down. We looked at the wall map and talked. It was fun. We went off on tangents about why there are boundaries between places, why if Europe is so small it "conquered" so much of the world, where we want to visit, or live someday, on this big planet of ours. I realized how sidetracked I had gotten, from what I know to be true, by some higher science fair experiment authority. I also saw how miserable I would be at the assigned homework thing, if they were in school.

"By nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do - and all we need to do - is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest." John Holt

Happy Earth Day.


mindy said...

LOVE this post! I, too, have succumbed to the "authorities" on various occasions instead of listening to my instincts. It's a good reminder to keep questioning when something doesn't feel right. Fabulous hose photo, and Go Braves!

whimsigal said...

The Science Fair was certainly more educational for us than we expected as well.

It seems like everyone was making connections!

Great post!

Angie said...

I love this post. I too forget to see the big picture and get lost in the details and the to-do's. If I would just trust my kids and not try to make everything what I think it would be - they would be so much better off!

Kids do not need to be led. They will lead the way themselves, in their own time. A good lesson for me to remember.

Thanks for the reminder.