Leaning on a Truck

Leaning on a Truck

From Sandra Dodd comes “Leaning on a Truck”, a reflection on how the art of conversation becomes an integral part of the homeschooling education.

Women talk face to face, they say, but men lean side by side on a truck. Another version of leaning on a truck is fishing: facing the same way, doing the same thing. Traditionally these days parents and children move in different spheres and do different things, but unschooling families mix ages and activities.

What can be the model of parent/child interaction? Well there�s the time-honored �riding in the car,� a great time and place for humor, news, and deep conversation. With a tape player, you get music, stories, and grand lyrics about the history of the world and faraway places. But people can�t live in the car. Washing dishes is a great time to sing or tell stories, but even after the biggest holiday dinner, the dishwashing ends. Raking leaves is a great project to lend itself to talking while doing.

She’s got something there.

Long late-night drives between Dallas and Austin with mom or with Theresa, just two of us in the car. Magical moments when conversations weave and wander, soaring to the stars and delving to the depths. It is much easier to bare your soul sitting in a moving car, side by side, with dark forms sliding by, mile after lonesome mile.

My courtship with Dom, how much of that took place sitting side by side in the car, parked out in front of the house? Certainly at the beginning when we were still “getting to know you” it helped grease the flow of conversation. Later there were the long nights with my hand on the knob at his front door, just about to leave while minutes stretched to more than an hour. But interspersed even then were those nights in the car, talking and talking. And those conversations did have a different flavor, somehow it is easier to let things slip, when you aren’t looking someone in the eye.

But it happens inside as well:

Inside the house, though, I have discovered the motherlode of two-for-ones, of tools for inspiring and sustaining conversation. I suppose you have some of these things, or might want to put them on your wish list. My favorite is pattern blocks. There are some hardwood blocks stained in a few bright colors, available for $25 at educational supply stores and upscale toyshops. They are mesmerizing. We bought a second set after a while so we could fill the table with one big mandala pattern after another. And over those blocks my children have told their secret dreams, and we have discussed art and math, manufacturing, stain and paint, we have laughed and been silent.

While the blocks were still out our children have dazzled visiting adults with their dexterity and artistic sense, then they�ve wandered off and the visitors have talked to me, while making patterns with blocks, about things that might have been hard to discuss if we were sitting facing one another. They�ve discussed their fears and love lives and embarrassments, and made some really great patterns.

She goes on to talk about all sorts of other activities, including jigsaw puzzles, that keep the hands busy and let the mind, and the conversation, wander at will.

And I can see that in my life too. Now Dom and I have recently instituted game night, usually on Fridays. A time set aside to play monopoly or parcheesi or scrabble. And to talk.

My mom loves to get us playing cards or scrabble or dominoes. We did it when we were kids and even now when I go home for a visit, there’s usually at least one night when we linger long at the dining room table, playing games.

But despite all that I’d never thought of it as a parenting technique. I can see it, especially with teenagers. I think it’s the sort of thing I’d do anyway. But a good thought to file away.

And I love the patterned blocks. Just the sort of thing I can get lost in for hours. They’re definitely going onto my wish list.


via The Lilting House

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  • Wow, Melanie.  That’s really depressing.  And it scares me right now, because my wife and I are just starting to teach my eldest to read.  Books were such a huge part of my life growing up, I’m worried that he won’t latch on to them the same way.

    But even if he doesn’t become a “voracious reader,” I’m pretty sure we can avoid this level.  I’ll make sure to teach him “impetus.”


  • From personal observation and also from what I’ve read, I think the biggest factors for kids learning to love reading are: 1. having parents who themselves read for pleasure and 2. who read aloud to their children on a daily basis.

    Having reading modeled as something that is enjoyable by parents is huge. Especially if you limit other factors like television and video games that might become replacement forms of entertainment.

    I once tutored a fourth grader whose mother wanted him to become a better reader but who let him watch tv indiscriminately and put a gaming system in his bedroom. A recipe for disaster.

    On the other hand, his reading did start to improve when we found books on his favorite subject: rats.

    If the children have trouble sitting still while you read to them, then let them play with legos or modeling clay or finger paints. Having something to keep their hands busy can actually help them focus.

    My sister, who is very ADD and has a hard time sitting still, became a reader because I read to her and got her hooked on good stories. Now she likes to listen to books on tape and knit or crochet while she listens. I find I love to listen while driving or sewing.

    Even my brother who has reading disabilities, sees the value of reading, though he doesn’t read voraciously. I don’t think he’s big on novels; but he will devour books on his passion: art. And his memory for details of artworks he’s seen is staggering.

    I think another key is not forcing the independant reading. Let him pursue it at his own pace. I think nothing turns kids off more than reading becoming a chore rather than an entertainment.

    You can always read aloud from stuff that is far beyond his “reading level”. For quite some time there will be lots of material that he can’t read on his own, but which he can appreciate as it is read to him. I think we often underestimate what children are capable of enjoying because we tend to think enjoyment predicated on understanding. Kids will often love to hear stories even when they don’t understand them at the same level we do.

    Take for example the three year old son of my Latin and Greek teacher who begged us to draw him pictures of cyclops. His dad used the Odyssey as a bedtime story and he loved it!