Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Few Tales

I think there must be a point in the psychological development of a child when he learns that there are more than literal answers to questions. I mentioned this before when I was testing Max on his letter-sounds. He doesn't provide us with many anecdotes like this because if a question seems too nuanced for him, he will, instead of guessing, give us a wide-eyed, breathy, "Ah don' know".

Last Sunday Nell was reading a book to him about WWII planes. The text was well above his comprehension, but the photos were sufficient to entice and excite a young non-reading bibliophile like Max. He was looking at it on the way to church and LMark brought it in.

During coffee hour Max asked Nell to read it to him, who, when she saw all the text, looked a little overwhelmed. Nonetheless she, a new mom and not yet knowledgeable in the ways of getting through these kinds of books (i.e. reading the blurbs under the photographs--which is the reason the child picked up the book in the first place) began to read on page 1:

World War II, or the Second World War, (often abbreviated WWII) was a global military conflict which involved a majority of the world's nation, including all of the great powers organized into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involved the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history. In a state of, the major participants placed their complete economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

Actually I'm kidding, I took the above from Wikipedia, but it might as well have sounded like that to Max who sat quietly, contentedly listening to the story. Nell plodded along till I told her she could skip some if she wanted to. She did skip some, but still read and occasionally made comments.

Finally (on page 3) she got to the story of Pearl Harbor. She decided to explain some of the pictures and engage him. She told him how the Japanese had bombs in their planes and dumped them on our planes in Hawaii.

Then she said, "Max, now what would you do if someone came along and dropped bombs on you?"

Silence.

Max looked thoughtful.

"What would you do, Max?" She said again, "...if you got bombed..."

Max took a deep breath...

"Explode?"

Which is no doubt the correct answer to the question. But it was difficult for Nell, after she stopped laughing to rephrase the question: "Ok, Max, what would you do after you 'exploded?'"

And, of course, the obvious and proper and less-nuanced answer there was "die," but she and I guided him into an even more bewildering answer to that question which was, "bomb them back."

I don't think he could wrap his mind around that one.

Now, Ella is more capable of nuance than all the kids put together, so it's not difficult--when she has a mind to cooperate--to get a proper answer from her. This week she was doing something in her grammar book that required her to write a number of simple, declarative sentences identifying what certain animals wear.

Sheep wear wool.

Porcupines wear quills.

Bears wear hair.

and pigs...

Pigs wear: BARBEQUE!!
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