What I Learned About Toddlers
From Two Toddlers

I have spent much of my life in school learning or in school teaching.  Additionally, I have had three children and an adult granddaughter who I have spent time teaching.  After all those years, I learned something from my grandson, Jack, when he was three.  I was down in Indy babysitting for him one day.  He was playing with some of his toys, and I was teaching online on my laptop.  Jack toddled into the dining room where I was working and asked what I was doing. 

I told him that I was teaching art history.  He looked at the screen and saw a painting and asked what that was.  I told him, and he toddled off only to return ten minutes later and saw another painting.  Again, he wanted to know what that was on the computer.  Finally, I learned that young children want to learn.  Learning wasn't based upon adults telling children what they need to know, as much as listening to them and finding out they want to understand.  Jack and all other toddlers throughout the world are beginning their journey down the yellow brick road of their lives.  They have questions even though I missed that yearning to know with my three children and my granddaughter, due to thinking that I was the one responsible educating them.  Jack taught me to listen.

This was one of Jack's first semesters of his art history class.

Description: Al and Jack discussing art

As much as I love teaching the arts, I never imagined teaching Jack about paintings until he was in high school.  Three years after Jack's first questions, Jack knows dozens of paintings and the names of the painters. 

Owen, Jack's brother, is three and has started to learn just like Jack.  This is a picture of one of their classes last year.

Description: Al looking at art with Jack and Owen

Jack knows that my favorite painting is William Turner's The Fighting Téméraire.  In one of my classes, I asked Jack and Owen to find the elephant in Turner's Hannibal Crossing the Alps. 

Description: Jack and Owen

Jack found the elephant and showed it to Owen, who was two at the time.  Then I told them about how difficult it would have been to get elephants over the Alps.  Owen didn't seem particularly interested in my art and history lesson.  However, he got up, went over to Jack's Hot Wheels.  He picked up a white Hot Wheel that given Jack several weeks ago.  Then sat down and started showing me what Hannibal should have used instead of elephants. 

Description: Owen

Jack was up at my home in Crown Point two years ago.  I live on a small man-made lake, which doesn't have a beach.  However, instead of sand, it has about four feet of small rocks.  Jack and I were sitting along the rock beach throwing rocks into the lake.  It was fun until Jack asked, "What's this Papa?"  He had a rock with fossilized small seashells embedded in the rock.  Thus began Jack and Owen's fossil collection. 

Description: Al putting the letters on

Owen is arranging their fossils.

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This is Jack and Owen's textbook.

Description: The Arts and Sciences

Their textbook contains dozens of paintings and pictures of over a dozen large fossils along with what the fossils look like today as they evolved over many millions of years.

1. Ammonite from Madagascar ca. 395 myo, which is like the chambered nautilus.

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Jack knows that I had to memorize poetry and prose in high school.  I can say to him, "Tiger, tiger burning bright...."  He will say, "...in the forest of the night."  They both have heard me quote lines from The Chambered Nautilus.

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

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Jack wanted to draw a chambered nautilus. 

2. Ortheceras from Sahara Desert ca. 350 myo, which is related to the chamber nautilus.

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3. Fossils of seashells from the lake in Papa's backyard.  These fossilized seashells were discovered by Jack when he was 4.

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4. Polished dinosaur coprolite from Utah ca. 140 myo. 

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Description: http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/fossil/coprolite/6fssl-coprolite1.jpg

5. Sea urchin (sand dollar) from Madagascar ca. 160 myo.

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6. Fish from Wyoming ca. 50 myo.

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7. Shark tooth from Morocco ca. 60 myo. 

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Description: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00224/51989793_SHark_224346c.jpg

8. Trilobite from Morocco ca. 395 myo. 

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9. Walrus tooth from Alaska ca. 3-8,000 year ago. 

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10. Horse's tooth found in Florida ca. 2 myo.

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11. Horn coral from Utah ca. 325 myo.

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12. Jack took this picture as I am looking for a missing fossil, which hasn't been found. 

13. Dinosaur tooth from Spinosaurus maroccanus, which means in Moroccan spine lizard ca. 95 myo.

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14. Another Ammonite from Madagascar ca. 395 myo, which is like the chambered nautilus.

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15. This is a fossilized clam from Madagascar ca. 180 myo. 

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One day, I was writing an essay about the Rosetta Mission.  Jack and Owen wanted to know about what the Rosetta Mission was.  So we have gone from paintings, to fossils, and now to space exploration.  They have heard about the Rosetta Mission rendezvousing with the comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  They also know that name, Rosetta, came from the name of a town in Egypt where Pierre-François Bouchard found this ancient basalt stele in 1799.

Description: The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone

Description: The Rosetta spacecraft

The Rosetta spacecraft

Description: The decade of flight of Rosetta

The decade of flight of Rosetta

Jack and Owen took turns being the comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, orbiting the Sun.

Jack is the comet....

Owen is now the comet....

It is interesting that one of the pieces of prose that I memorized in high school was from Silas Marner.  George Eliot, which is the pseudonym that Mary Ann Evans, published her novella, Silas Marner, in 1861.  Exactly a century later, I stood in front of Mrs. Davis to recite this passage from Silas Marner.  I thought that I understood Eliot's message over five decades ago.  However, I get her message today via Jack and Owen. 

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.

Thanks Jack and Owen; I needed that.

Owen's Christmas Gifts thumbnail Owen's Christmas Gifts From Around the World

Jack's Christmas Gifts thumbnail Jack's Christmas Gifts From Around the World

Darwin, Chagall, and Lindbergh's Gifts thumbnail Darwin, Chagall, and Lindbergh's Gifts For Jack on His Fifth Birthday

Darwin, van Gogh, and Lindbergh's Gifts thumbnail Darwin, van Gogh, and Lindbergh's Gifts For Owen on His Third Birthday

My Hauntings

My Hauntings

Visit the My Hauntings page to read more about this topic.

The Hand May Be a Little Child's

"The Hand May Be a Little Child's"

Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.