Saturday, March 15, 2008

Emulation, simulation, motivation, experimentation

All kinds of learning have been taking place here this week. The baby has expanded her vocabulary and can now say: "Go! go..go..go..go.." (Plus her version of "Ready.. steady.."); "No"; "Back to bed"; "Bye!"; "Hello"; and "Num," which means: feed me. Also: "NUM," which means: feed me NOW. Oh and "thank you"! Which nobody has taught her or encouraged her to say. She's just picked it up from us. And "Iggy", of course, of Night Garden fame. And she's recently learned how to jump, which is very sweet.

Lyddie has been a mini-me in the past few days. She's been wearing one of her baby dolls in a babysling and cleaning. And changing its nappy and its clothes, and generally fussing over it. The doll watches a lot of TV, I notice, but I'm glad to see that it also enjoys stories. It has had some pictures painted for it and towers built with bricks, which it managed to knock over. We've also been doing that stereotypical home ed activity: looking for signs of spring and learning which things can be eaten and which can't. I think we'll make nettle soup soon - I noticed they're just about ready for picking already.

Zara has recently developed an interest in current affairs. This (well, politics and economics) has always been an interest of Tom's and I'm enjoying discussing the subject from a more human-oriented (female?) angle with her. I enjoy debating with him too, but Tom's thinking is much more theory-based and he likes to speculation-spar with me. ("I think this is bound to happen by this date," etc.) But with Zara I find myself exploring more of the reasons why people might make certain decisions and how they might be emotionally as well as practically impacted by them. It's definitely different.

The boys have been working together to install our new bathroom. I could have paid £thousands in tutors and courses and still never provided as much learning for them as this job is doing. They initially thought it would take 2 days and I think we're onto the 4th week now. At first I was impatient, but now I'm just enjoying watching it play out. They're completely self-motivated. I'm not having to issue reminders, pleas or naggings, but with every step they discover at least several others, and it's a constant process of problem-solving, deep and animated discussion and trial and error.

A radiator needed replacing, so they had to learn how to drain, refill and then fix the central heating system, which meant welding pipes. They suddenly know how a flushing lavatory works, in great detail. The back wall needed boarding out and the measurements had to be retaken and the board resawn, hmmm... once or twice!

But the lessons being learned aren't just practical - they're also lessons in things like humility, I suppose. They went at it with all the natural arrogance of youth to begin with, assuming it would be easy for them. But plumbing is quite unforgiving and if you do something wrong, or even not quite right, the consequences often involve getting wet. So it can't be botched and they've had to actually read the manual. And the text book. And the web site.

They have a great way of working together, which is evolving all the time too. Tom's obviously in charge but Ali keeps him on his toes. He'll assist but only up to a point: he won't slave. Tom has to delegate in just the right way to get things done. And Ali ribs him constantly, especially if he makes a mistake. So Tom's pride is making him all the more careful. And I love the way they debate issues, the way they always have since they learned how to talk: pacing backwards and forwards up and down the kitchen. That bit of the floor needs repainting every year! But it's worth it, just to watch them pace and discuss.

I'm learning too - probably things I should have learned many years ago. That praise always, always yields better results than criticism. That one volunteer is easily worth ten pressed men. That patience really does have its own reward. And that, as site manager, my most useful tools are my sweeping brush and my organisational (tidying up) ability. Oh, and that I'm quite enjoying the journey, never mind the destination.

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