The latest episode of my waldorf guilt.
If you haven’t been reading along, these are the posts in which I wring my hands over how un-waldorfy things can get around here, and how I tend to feel guilty about it. Or try to justify why I don’t feel guilty.
I’ve been feeling less and less guilty lately. Brought on by a confluence of different ideas from different people.
First was Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. I’ve already raved on and on about this book, so I’ll spare you. (Although if you can get your hands on the audiobook version, which Chabon reads, you must.) In my reflection on the book, I wrote this:
“There’s something about the way Chabon combines his Pulitzer Prize-winning style with the most base cultural references that captivates me. In his essay on Legos—one that had particular resonance for me as the mother of two Lego-loving sons—Chabon writes, “Time after time, playing Legos with my kids, I would fall under the spell of the old familiar crunching. It’s the sound of creativity itself, of the inventive mind at work, making something new out of what you have been given by your culture, what you know you will need to do the job, and what you happen to stumble upon along the way.” That making something new of what you have been given by your culture is a big part of Chabon’s genius. It’s precisely what he does in these essays, again and again.”
And one could certainly argue that Chabon made something new of what he was given by his culture when he took his lowly childhood love of comic books and fashioned it into a Pulitzer prize-winning novel.
Second was my reading of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. I’m planning to write a post on the book soon, so I won’t say much yet. But holy sheep dip, this book has so many implications for educators–for homeschoolers especially–about the skills kids will really need in the future. So many of Pink’s ideas are what I and a world of other homeschoolers have intuited over the years, but what a joy to get such heavily-researched validation!
Which all led to the morning when Mr. T was trying to come up with a project for our homeschool history fair, based on his interest in Norse myths. I can’t remember who came up with the idea first–it may have been my suggestion after I saw how he was “enacting” a video game by jumping across the family room furniture. But somehow the idea formed: he plans to design his own Lego Wii-style game, based on Norse mythology.
Now he won’t be actually making a playable game, of course. But he’s imagining levels and drawing pictures and narrating to me what happens in each. And we’re thinking of begging his big brother to help him make some stop-animation films for each level.
Here’s what he has so far. My waldorf guilt must warn you that there is a lot of virtual punching involved. But if you can hang in there, I’ll explain what I think the kid is getting from this.
LEVEL 1: THE BATTLE OF YMIR
Object: Defeat Ymir
First of all, go to Ymir and punch him three times. He will jump to a ledge. Beware, he’ll throw icicles down! Also, jotuns will fall from the sky. They’ll only take one punch to defeat.
Remember, don’t go into Ginnungagap or the sides of the board or you’ll die.
Go under Ymir’s ledge and pull down a lever. More ledges will come out of the wall. Jump on them to get to Ymir’s ledge and punch him three times. He’ll jump to a new ledge and the one you’re on will explode. You’ll fall to the ground.
Then, go under Ymir’s new ledge and step on one of the three red squares. Your teammates will step on the other red squares. Then Ymir’s new ledge will come down. Jump on to it and punch him three times. He’ll jump to the ground. Punch him three more times and the level will end.
How to get the magic box: in Free Play, be Loki or a different character that can jump really high and jump on to the island in the middle of Ginnungagap. Collect the floating box.
If you win:
You unlock Odin and his brothers and you can be them in Free Play.
How this level is based on Norse myths:
Well, there really wasn’t any levers, red squares, floating boxes, jotuns falling from the sky, or an island in the middle of Ginnungagap. Really, there wasn’t any Lego things whatsoever.
What there really was were the characters of Odin, Loeder and Hoenir, who were brothers and the first of the Aesir gods. There also was Ymir, who was the first of the jotun race, or a frost giant. Odin and his brothers really fought Ymir and they did throw him into Ginnungagap. I didn’t put blood in because I didn’t want it to be too violent, but there was blood in the story. Ginnungagap was a giant pit in the middle of Niflheim and Muspelheim, the first of the nine Norse worlds.
The Star Wars planet Mustafar was based on Muspelheim.
First, I have to tell you how incredibly excited Mr. T is about this project. He thinks about future levels endlessly, and begs me to take more dictation. So there’s deep immersion.
Second, there are lots of writing skills at work here. After I wrote Level 1, he said, “Now do the dot-dot thing.”
I knew what he was getting at. “You mean put a colon in?”
“Yes, a colon.” And he came to check that I did it right. On the next line, after I typed object, he said, “Now put a colon.”
How can I not be charmed by an eight-year-old who requests colons in all the right places?
I asked him if he’d consider adding the How this level is based on Norse myths section (hoping to make sure the project looks somewhat educational for the homeschool fair.) Mr. T was happy to. He said, “Can the narrator be funny in that part?”
“What?” I didn’t see that question coming.
“You know, funny. Like this.” And he proceeded to narrate the section above, influenced, I’m pretty sure, by the disclaimer page that follows each Magic Schoolbus book. My favorite part is Really, there wasn’t any Lego things whatsoever. (I’m not fixing his grammar at this point–he’ll learn to use the right verb tenses in time, but for now I want to keep intact his eight-year-old voice.) I love how he’s picking up the notion that one can write with personality and humor, even in nonfiction.
“Oh, and I want to add a nifty fact.” A nifty fact? I have no idea where he got that phrase. From National Geographic Kids? From one of the many behind-the-scenes books on comics that he’s read? When I asked where he got this particular nifty fact, he ran upstairs and brought down his Star Wars encyclopedia. Surely wii games and Star Wars books are just the sort of “crap” that Michael Chabon writes about; my kid is using crap to learn how to make his informational writing captivating.
He’s using just the sort of right-brained thinking that Pink writes about to put this project together. He’s researching Norse myths and considering the wii games that he likes to play. Then he’s applying his research to design a game that takes into account those myths while also being entertaining. Silly as his project may sound, I’m convinced that these are the types of skills the kids of today will need in the future. It’s not the content that he’s working with that matters so much, it’s the thinking skills involved.
If content like wii games is what captivates my kid, I’m willing to go with it. And, surprisingly, I don’t feel even a smidge guilty.