May 10, 2011

Plain speaking...

We love words around here.

Time Travel
My earliest memories involve books and reading. I still have my first ambitious attempt at writing a book titled "All about Australian Animals" which petered out after emus...not so extensive really.

I also remember at age 7 or so reading "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" while sitting in a patch of hot sun yet feeling cold, with goosebumpy skin as I was mentally and vicariously cold from the written descriptions of the icy forests of Narnia.

When I look back over my life at the lofty old age of 47 I can travel in reverse through my life via my significant books - a time travel library - and remember what else was going on when I read those stories.

Who are you?
Words bring ideas alive, they are our thoughts made manifest.

Each of us have our own "voice" - the individual particular meld and combination of words we use in speech, written down, or indeed internally (trust the therapist - it's true!).

Like matching the vocal pitch of your favourite singer (that allows you to sing in tune with them and feel sooooo in the song), finding the written pitch of a writer who matches your internal "word pitch" connects you in the most intimate way to the world their work inhabits.

At this time, the Australian writer Peter Temple is my pitch perfect author. Who is yours?

Words at home
Naturally, our girls are also word and book crazy. November spoke words clearly at 7 months, and invented her own words that she used consistently from 12 months of age. July waited til 9 months of age to speak other peoples' words but typically of a second child jumped into complex phrases almost immediately.

We have always ignored the recommended ages of books for children and chosen contrary to the mainstream as we have tried to match the book to the child on that particular day or moment.

This is why Roald Dahl has been a staple of our reading the horror of some other parents amazed we would read to our girls books about giants that eat children, parents that are abusive to their children, or twits with guns. That is a whole other post : )

We have not followed a Steiner/Waldorf model that discourages reading until aged 7...both daughters were early readers and writers.

For our family, it was a mark of "growing up" just the right amount when you could select and read your own books from the weekly library visit. Empowering.

Words ain't just words you know...
Words are complex aren't they...and as a former designer and typography teacher I am always swayed by the arrangement of line and shape, serif, or absence of serif, positive and negative space. I like my language rich with nuance both visual and emotional.

Language in home education - back to the future
This deep involvement in language written and read aloud is why we follow (loosely) a classical homeschooling curriculum. An eclectic classical mix of just about everything.

While parents are reading wonderful books to their entranced children powerful things happen. Synergy occurs, memories are laid down and big picture thinkers develop. Where is the meaning of life without chronology? Who are you without your past and present and future?

When developing our curriculum and homeschool plan, we put together a loose timeline of book topics to read, starting with the Big Bang and evolution on Earth, and went from there.

One of the highlights was reading the Mesopotamian "Gilgamesh" - the first great epic poem  of world literature from the area that is present day Iraq. This first recorded story was written in cuneiform at the crucial point in human development where "prehistory" (life without written words) met history (the recording of human thoughts in writing).

Gilgamesh is an epic tale written some 3,500 years ago. It contains the first written reference to the "great flood", which later became Noah's tale of the ark.

Part of our homeschool exploration of early writing included scratching cuneiform characters into clay tablets and reading wonderful summaries such as I love Typography's "The Origins of abc" which is where this image comes from:

Who is reading who
Our before bed read-aloud is currently "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster - an absurdly entertaining book about a bored boy who ventures into a world of words and numbers via "the Doldrums". Fancies were very tickled here when the main character Milo finds a lane-way in the word market of Dictionopolis where you could buy your own letters and "do it yourself":

 as compared to the complete word section
"Step right up - ah, what can I do for you, little boy? How about  a nice bag of pronouns?"

Ties in nicely with our work on "Grammar Island" from Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts curriculum.

Words as moving pictures
Came across this wonderful poem by Taylor Mali set in magnificent style by Ronnie Bruce...

If you think I am haughty about language, listen here to the first part of the irrepressible Stephen Fry's "podgram" on his dislike of pedantry for pedantry's sake. Lovely language in here too...find the full podcast on the iTunes store under Stephen Fry.


How do you use language in your family?

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