Saturday, 30 December 2017

History Repeating Itself

A couple of weeks ago, the death was announced of Prof. Heinz Wolf. He was a clever, kind, funny man who loved introducing science to both adults and children. For years I had a piece of paper on my kitchen pinboard with a something I'd heard him say on the BBC written on it. "We must teach our children to be numerate, literate AND manipulate"
I'm not sure about using 'manipulate' as an adjective, but I agree with the idea. Yes, reading, writing and maths are vital skills - but children also need to know how to do things and make things.
Learning to tie shoelaces, to make pastry, to wrap a parcel, to  make Lego models, to sew on buttons - these  basic abilities are the start... Children who are taught them stand more chance of growing to be young adults who can do knitting, attempt dressmaking, tackle bicycle maintenance, prepare a roast dinner, maybe even assemble flatpack IKEA furniture. They will manage repairing, recycling and repurposing.
I mentioned last week about the rods from our dropside cot. It was ancient [about 5th hand when we were given it] Nothing like as lovely as the one here - but it was adequate. One evening, just before her 2nd birthday, about half an hour after I had put Liz to bed, I heard a noise from her bedroom. A crash and a thump and then a little voice "Oh dear. Broke it!" 
I dashed in to find the cot base on the floor, and the four sides all leaning inwards- and a bemused toddler, standing unharmed in the middle of the chaos.
To this day, we are not sure how she managed to completely dis-assemble her bed. But I was rather proud of my little girl proving herself to be so dextrous at a young age. Her skills have progressed through the years.
On Boxing Day, we had a meal with the family, and then it was Rosie's bedtime. "Say goodnight to Grandma" said Liz. So Ro walked over to Bob and clearly and confidently said "Night Grandma" then turned to me and repeated "Night Grandma" - and then went upstairs for bath and bed.
Liz came downstairs later. Rosie was in her cot, and chatting cheerfully to herself. But then we heard a bang. Liz dashed upstairs, and called me to follow. "Sounds like a repeat of 'Oh dear, broke it!'" I said to Bob.
There was Rosie - standing in her cot with a determined expression on her face. She looked at us, and said "Books! Help! Books!" and pointed to the objects of desire just beyond her reach. Liz has recently put some books inside the storage unit beside the cot. Rosie had reached through the bars and managed to get the lid off, and knocked it on to the floor - but couldn't reach the books inside.
So we gave her a book, reassembled the unit, [moving it further from the cot] and went downstairs again. If a girl is that keen to read in bed, we are not stopping her!
Like mother, like daughter...


  1. At Christmas, I gave the book 'Guess how much I love you' by Sam McBratney to my as yet unborn first grandchild due in March. Delighted to hear that the babies mummy has started to read it to her. Just hope she develops the love of books and sees them as 'objects of desire' as your little Rosie has done. Best Wishes for 2018 .....

    1. Thank you Cath- may you enjoy being a grandparent as much as I do!

  2. I fully agree with Prof Wolf's assertion. I increasingly find incompetence in the moving of items or manipulations of my students and an unwillingness to persevere and I say this as someone who is quite bad at that type of thing myself.

    1. This must be doubly frustrating for you, Kezzie, as you attempt to teach them to play their instruments!

  3. Glad that neither Liz nor Rosie were hurt in their manipulations! My daughter is another intrepid manipulator! And yes, she's pretty good at assembling those IKEA flatpack furniture, including the sofas in my family room and her entire bedroom suite!

  4. Did he do a whole series on children's minds about fourteen years ago? I was at the every start of my mothering, and there was a wonderful illustration of children walking through a wheat field that still haunts me today!


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