From Tinkering to Mapping: Conversation Starters for this Week

“Who are these people?” Yesterday morning a journalist observed Anna’s launch of a project and then sat down with Kaylie to talk about her observations. I was working in the same room and overheard her first question. “Who are these people? I mean, really, where did these students come from? I have never heard such an articulate group of children in my life.”

Kaylie masterfully described the process of Socratic discussion and the daily practice that our students have gone through over these months and years at Acton. She made it sound simple yet the profundity was not lost on the visiting seasoned education writer.

We might take for granted the skill or art of conversation that is so purposefully learned and practiced at Acton. We get used to walking through the classroom and hearing important ideas being seriously discussed.

For outsiders looking in, it is quite stunning. For us as parents, it is a total blast. We get to talk with our children and learn from them. But this kind of conversation takes time and effort. It is hard to know where to begin when all you really want to do is clean the kitchen. What a luxury to pause life and converse with purpose. What are they thinking about? What are they dreaming about? What opinion do they have on this or that? What advice would they give me?

Maybe your best conversations happen in the car or at bedtime or on the fly….it doesn’t matter. What matters is remembering to have them. Here are two conversation ideas for this week from what happened just yesterday:

1) Begin a discussion on how you like to solve problems or create something. Do you prefer to tinker or to follow specific instructions? Why? What is the benefit of following instructions? What is the benefit of tinkering? At home, is it better for parents to give more instructions or let children figure things out on their own? What are examples of times you want instructions and times you don’t?

2) Ask your child how to map a hero’s journey. Ask about the hero’s journey of author Jean Craighead George. What was her calling? Her challenges? Her guides? Can an animal be a guide? Move this conversation to share with each other your own hero’s journey map. What fears and challenges does each person in your family face right now? Who do each of you have as guides in your lives? What is an achievement of each person? What is a calling? Do you know what your calling is yet or are you working to figure that out? Will you have lots of callings in your life or just a few? Can a family have their own hero’s journey? What a fun concept – maybe as a  group, we can do something heroic for the world. What would that be? Should we do it?

I wish you great fun with conversations this week.

Coming up: What will our classroom look like and function at full capacity? For three years we have patiently awaited a full classroom. The time has finally arrived and we could not be more excited about reaching our full potential as Acton Academy. I can’t wait to share with you the vision for which we have been slowly and steadily preparing.