I know the mind works in mysterious ways, but I woke up at 4am thinking of pie.
Apparently Gary woke up thinking about me, and probably wondering why his wife is crazy. As I turned over he asked, “Do you ever wake up and just want to go back to sleep for a while instead of working on the computer?”
“No, it’s just what I do.”
So I’ve spent the last thirty minutes typing the local news from May 15, 1914, and thinking about pie.
I wasn’t thinking about eating pie or how delicious it tastes or how the soft, smooth creaminess of it melts in your mouth. Honest. I was thinking about how I learned to make pie crust- not by overt instruction, but by observation. My grandmother wasn’t one to stand around and say, “Take this and this and measure that…” No. She worked and I paid attention, and once in a while she’d say, “Don’t stretch it too much”, or some other helpful tip. But I knew that she used cold water because I watched her take it out of a jar she kept in the refrigerator. I knew she sifted the flour because I watched her do it.
I was thinking about making pie because it’s a skill that requires some knowledge, practice, and competence. I don’t make pie anymore, but there was a time when I wasn’t ashamed to take mine to a church supper. I have my grandmother, and hours of observation and practice, to thank for that.
I guess the world has changed more than I want to think about. People must not spend as much time doing things in front of their children, because I have students who don’t know how to eat properly, much less make anything, even a peanut butter sandwich. At the beginning of the year they don’t know how to even approach eating a piece of Salisbury steak, a school lunch staple. They hold their fork and just look at me. They can’t tie their shoes or button their shirts or blow their noses. Some can’t even figure out how to open a door. Here is a post I wrote recently for my kindergarten blog:
Problem Solving 101
Yesterday I observed an interesting exercise in problem solving. Three of my girls were painting at the art center and decided they needed some clean water.
Our classroom door is pretty heavy for a kindergartner to handle, but most of my students can open and close it. I usually leave it open, but in the afternoons there is often hall noise and distraction from the returning lunch crowds, so I close the door for about an hour.
H went to the door with the cup of water in her hand and found that she couldn’t open the door. I watched her from my desk and waited to see if she would ask someone for help. No. She returned to the art center and put the cup back on the table. There was a brief discussion and then C picked up the cup. Now, C is at least four inches shorter and much lighter than H, so I watched intently to see what she would do.
C went to the door and pulled. Nothing. So, she put the cup of water on top of the cubbies next to the door, used both hands to pull the door open, braced it with her back, retrieved the cup, and walked out. H wasn’t even watching!! Oh well, maybe she’ll figure it out next time.
I blame my students’ helplessness not on their age, but on the following factors:
1. Most children don’t spend a lot of one-to-one quality time with parents. Sorry, television time doesn’t count. Therefore the children don’t learn from observation.
2. There are never hours available to do anything, or observe anything, or learn anything, unless of course it’s a sport. Therefore parents are more likely to do things for a child so they can just get going. Therefore the child never solves a problem- that’s what parents do.
3. Most of my students eat “finger food”, “fast food”, or “kid food”. Therefore they don’t have to sit at a table, learn to use flatware, or have manners.
4. A lot of food and things that used to be made at home are now purchased. Therefore my students have no idea how a pie is made, but they can tell me where to find it at WalMart.
5. A lot of what we adults do these days takes place in our minds, on machines, and in front of screens. Therefore much of it is not observable by children, nor are they capable of repeating it correctly.
None of these things are all that bad, just less likely to produce a skilled, productive, independent child than hours spent watching a skilled, productive, independent adult tackle the problems of the day. I wonder about these things at 4am. It’s just what I do.