Ooh, the comments on my last post have been interesting–have you seen?
So much talk about child-led learning, and parental support, and the many possible ratios of the two.
That last post was about me trying to let go and let Mr. T lead; this time I’m switching angles and writing about a time when I didn’t let go.
A couple of years ago, before our family took an amazing trip to Italy, H made this model of Florence’s Duomo.
The model was his idea. He was reading Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King and was fascinated with the dome, couldn’t believe how big it looked in Florence, when viewed from above on Google Earth. H’s dome might not look that impressive on first glance–it’s just a foamcore model. More impressive was the fact that he made it on his own–with no instructions, no blueprints, no measurements to work from. He looked online for architectural plans, and found some drawings of the dome, but nothing with measurements. So he made his own scale plans by measuring photos on the internet.
This might be a workable concept if making a traditional building, with traditional right angles. But look at the terracotta sections of the dome and try to envision how they’re shaped. Then envision how you would cut the pieces from foamcore to make them come together into a dome.
Now, spatial-visual skills are one of H’s strengths–you may have heard me talk of the dizzying Lego diagrams he could follow at five. He was sure he could work this out, and he tried. He cut piece after piece out of foam core for the dome section and tried again and again to fit them together. Eventually he got so tired of cutting them that he was hacking them from the foamcore, with an X-acto knife. Then finally, one day when he was so close to getting the thing to work, he had enough. He picked up his duomo-in-progress, hurled it across the living room where it smashed against a cabinet, and said he never wanted to see it again.
Well. Any parent who ostensibly follows their child’s lead with his learning would take this as a not-so-subtle signal to move on. But no-o-o. Not me. I just couldn’t let go of the project. H had put so many hours of research and effort into his model, and he’d come so close to making it work–I couldn’t let him throw it all away.
So Chris* and I appraised the smashed model. We could see that H’s last version of the domed roof had actually come close to fitting–it was just that the hacked edges weren’t lining up. So Chris used H’s pieces as a template, and recut the pieces as only an un-frustrated person can.
Then I begged and cajoled H to try one more time. He said no! I begged more. Eventually he caved. He made the dome pieces fit, and finished the model, up to the brass cross at the tip.
I’m so glad I pestered him. Look:
That was the view from our hotel room in Florence. It was directly across the street from the Santa Maria dei Fiori Cathedral and Il Duomo. The old, eight-feet high wooden windows were worth the price of the room. We never tired of the dome’s ringing bells, or looking out the windows at that ancient terracotta roof, at the crowds in front of the cathedral. Each morning I drank my cappuccino at the window, watching people ride their bikes across the square to work–my favorites were the nuns, and the women riding upright in their stylish skirts and scarves, looking like extras from Roman Holiday.
But I think no one loved that view more than H. He owned that dome. He had conquered it. It was his.
Which brings me back to the little dance in which sometimes my kids lead, and sometimes I lead. I try to let them take control, but sometimes, I think, they can use a little push. A little insistence even. They need someone to say, I think you should try to do this and here’s why. H needed me to hear me say, I know you don’t want to work on that Duomo any more, but I’d really like you to make another attempt at it.
I try not to do it too often, or my words lose their power. I do a lot of biting my tongue.
But here’s what I’ve discovered: if you make an effort to listen to your kids and follow their leads most of the time, they may, on occasion, listen to you.
* Chris has decided the he doesn’t want to be referred to as My Charming Husband. Too much pressure, I guess. He suggested Cristiano, his commenting pseudonym, which was actually the name of our concierge at this particular hotel in Florence. But I don’t know–referring to him as Cristiano makes me feel like I’m married to an Italian concierge. So I’m going back to using his regular ol’ name; hopefully if some business acquaintance googles his name, Chris won’t be embarrassed by his shenanigans on the Wonder Farm.