When it comes down to learning and education, there are a lot of different views on what is appropriate and what is not. Children are being taught too many things too early, Children need more play and unstructured time. Children need to be taught earlier, they need more structure.
As a reaction to our overzealous educational system, many parents believe it’s better to ‘let their child be’, ‘not bother with learning to read or math’ and ‘just letting children play’. Where learning, such as reading and math are seen as arduous concepts which we should not depress our children with ‘just yet’. In an attempt to let go of the old and introduce the new – we may leave behind the old structures, but our perceptions are still with us, and taint the ‘new’.
Whenever I introduce something to Cesar which I believe or perceive to be under the banner of ‘educational’ or ‘teaching’ – he is not interested and I am met with great resistance. Say I want to show him a word (that I perceive as being a ‘difficult one’), he will quickly be distracted and want to move away. So I took a step back and asked myself what it is that I am doing different in this situation, than in other situations – where his learning or absorption ability runs smoothly and can integrate new information easily. When I introduce him to someone new and say their name – he gets it. This person, this face = that name. When I show him or introduce him, I just ‘say it as it is’.
I don’t go ‘hmm, this person has quite complex facial features and kind of also looks like that person and their name is quite unusual I wonder if he will ‘get it’’.
Whenever we perceive something as hard and difficult to comprehend, and then try and have someone else take in this information – we create our very experience, as we act out this expectation unconsciously through our choice of words, voice tonality and body language.
In showing him a ‘difficult word’ for example – my sounds would become louder, longer, repeating myself often, and have a sort of ‘belittling’ look on my face.
Cesar loves words, shapes and counting. Not because they are ‘educational’ – but because words, shapes and numbers are everywhere around us. Just like balls, dogs, people, toys,…
Recognizing and reading letters or words – is just as easy as recognizing a person and being able to say their name. It’s when we make a ‘thing’ out of it, make it more or less than what it is – a point of separation is created and we’ll be in conflict with the object, being or concept in our world.
I had to challenge myself (and still do) to drop all expectations of what is hard, easy, educational, fun, relaxing – as for Cesar – there’s no distinction. There’s just things around him, and stuff to do – whether it’s reading, playing with a toy or cleaning – it doesn’t have to change him or who he is.
The School of Ultimate Living is a great platform to explore your relationships to words, to see them for what you have made them to be, to deconstruct and redefine your relationship to words so that they form the building blocks of your life, your potential – and live the best version of yourself that you can be.
When someone announces they are pregnant, it’s happy news. You are going to be so happy when you see that little baby of yours, it’s truly a miracle. And it is – holding that small, innocent life in your hands – whoa; it’s quite something.
One day, I was walking with my husband through the mall, holding my son in my arms. As we are walking he says “Isn’t it funny, all these people here, were all babies once, just like our son. We were once a baby, just like our son”.
I look at all the people walking and shopping by. I notice the expression on their faces, mostly sad, zoned out – just going through the motions. I wonder what lives they live, what struggles they face. I notice their clothes and what shops they enter, which gives an inkling of their economic status. Some must struggle more than others. As we drive back we drive through parts of town with nice houses, we also drive past a township. I notice the people, the children. I remember all the people from the mall. I imagine all the people we’ve encountered today as little babies. All equally, cute, innocent and precious as my own son.
I become really sad and ask myself: God, what have we done?
Each of these people were little miracles. Once they all had the same joyful, trusting expression my son exhibits. That gaze that claims that only good can come their way. That the world is full of fun and possibilities, and they can’t wait to explore it.
And for most of these little miracles, the opposite happened. How could it have gone any other way?
We live in a world of conditionality. We don’t just live, we have to earn our living. While the adults go and earn their living – the children take a backseat. Schools, a place we are told we go to, to develop our utmost potential in life, turns out to be a babysitting factory where we each day get numbed and dumbed down a little more. While the material you get fed seems to rather go in the one ear and out the other once we’ve ‘passed the test’; what really sticks is the conformation, the peer pressure, the obedience towards those in positions of authority, the desire to meet your parents’ expectations, the labels that were thrown at you. Then school is over, and so is your childhood. Now, you too must go and earn your living.
I remember all the people we encountered again. How some were having disputes about their relationships. Parents struggling to get to things in time whilst children wanted to do anything but go where the whole family was headed. The threats, the shouting, the insulting of one another.
Even those earning their living, are not really living. Every day is just another struggle to get to the next, and the next, and the next. We hope for the best, even when our world shows us it’s one of very few winners and many losers drawing the short end of the stick. We keep doing what we’re doing, how we have been doing it – hoping, that somehow maybe things will be different for us or for our children.
This all reminds me of the Divergent movie series. Where everyone lives according to a system, a way of life as ‘how things have been’, and keep doing and living the same thing over, thinking it ‘must be the right thing’ – if it’s what we have been doing for such a long time, surely this is how things are supposed to be.
But then it turns out their entire society, their entire way of living, was just an experiment. It was never absolute, it was never a “law” that things must continue as they are. In fact, the experimenters were waiting for someone to change the whole thing. While the majority of the people saw themselves as good citizens, within living within the predetermined lines of the system, thinking and believing that ‘that must be its purpose’ – the purpose was exactly the opposite.
What if life on Earth, our way of living was just an experiment. What if the whole purpose of how we live, is not to continue living this way, but to step beyond it – to transcend it. To start colouring outside of the lines. Why do we insist on living li(v)es where every single person – every one of these single people having been a miracle at birth – end up living an undignified life? End up getting less than what every single person deserves; regardless of birthplace, race, or economic status?
I’d say we have experimented enough, and that the results of our experiment are pretty conclusive: this isn’t going anywhere good.
Let’s come up with something new. If not for us, do it for the children to come.
We were going through one of Cesar’s books, pointing and identifying all the things he can recognise in the drawings. When we got to this page, Cesar was pointing at the dog’s back, and with his facial expressions ask what this ‘thing on his back is about’.
I explained to him that it’s a backpack and dug through our cupboards to find us a backpack each. Whenever we teach or show him new words, we aim to provide a physical reference of what something is (and if we can, a few different ones – showing that say a backpack not only takes ‘one form’ but exists as a variety). This is because we want to teach him what something ‘is’ rather than ‘what it looks like’. Learning through pictures would be like saying that ‘your Facebook profile picture’, is ‘who you are’ — while we all know that there is much more to any person than what their appearance is like. Teaching through pictures creates the assumption that you know and understand something simply because you have a visual reference. In the long run we start to trust our imagination as being real and valid (being made up of pictures) while physical reality can have a whole different story to tell. Just as we can’t fathom to know a person by a picture, so it is with all things in our reality. When we work with books, we always specify we are looking at a drawing or picture of something and not ‘the real deal’.
Here Cesar is wiping some chalk drawings away of circles, squares and crescent moons. While he is wiping he goes ‘wipe, wipe, wipe’ – and once it’s all wiped out, he goes ‘Gone!!!’
What was funny in this moment is that the chalk wasn’t really gone. And I noticed how when we play hide and seek with objects or when things are ‘out of sight’ that I have been telling them that they are ‘gone’. I realised I had been teaching him that when you can no longer see things that they are ‘gone’ – while in fact, they always remain present. He can wipe away the chalk drawing, but the chalk remains – it’s now just spread all over the tile and on his wipe. So I started explaining how things are not really gone just because we don’t see them anymore. I showed him how the chalk was still here but changed form. That when we throw things away and can’t see them anymore, that they are still existent and present, we just don’t see them anymore at that very moment.
I remember when I was small and accidentally set a paper tissue on fire, that I threw it in the garbage bin assuming that it now would be ‘gone’ and no longer ‘exist’. As if the bin was some sort of black hole that would send any object into non-existence. Luckily my mom noticed me rushing to the bin and walking away relieved, seeing that something was up and killed the flame before it set the whole bin on fire lol. It’s interesting to see how the use of such as small word incorrectly, creates all kinds of misconceptions.