Sunday, 3 July 2016

Education of Golems: Part 2

5 Tools for Cultivating Golem Builders

In the previous post I highlighted some sources that expain the origins of the word golem. Another couple of sources were brought to show the guide-posts for creating an education plan for one’s children and students.

The things that I would like to cover next are the additions that I have made to the more formal elements of the education plan to help turn my children from golems (in the sense of being (uncultivated / uneducated) to more rounded individuals.

Here is my 5 point plan:

1. Patience
2. Self-Awareness
3. Focus
4, Problem solving
5, Curiosity

1. Patience

I have devised a game based on the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that teaches patience and enhances delayed gratification. Quite simply I place a marshmallow in front of them and ask the kids to sit still and in silence for X number of minutes. If they succeed then at the end they get a second marshmallow.

I ran the game each Sunday morning (whilst my wife was out) and built them up from 1 minute to over 6 minutes. Considering that my kids were five and three at the time, sitting still for that long at those ages seems like an eternity.

Two side benefits of the game have been an improvement in behaviour of one of my kids who is very wriggly and finds it hard to sit still in school. The other is that I use the term “marshmallow game” to either get them to sit still for a short time or to help explain why they need to wait for a better reward.

2. Self-Awareness

Time-outs… they’re not much fun for parents or kids. I’m not a huge fan of them, but they do succeed in interrupting the behaviour pattern that the parents wants to adjust. The problem that I found was that whilst I could get my kids to sit on the step for the count of ten or twenty (depending on the severity of their actions), they often said “sorry” and then began to repeat the same behaviour patterns.

So I started sitting next to them and asking them to slow down their breathing a bit. We counted our breaths and this seemed to have a significant impact. My kids and I would still talk about how we felt but with more depths. The act of focusing on our breathing proved to be a great way for each of us to exert some influence on our emotional states.

Nowadays I just say “breathe deeply” as a shorthand for saying “be conscious of how you are feeling so that you can make a better informed choice about how you want to behave/respond”.

3. Focus

Some kids can focus for hours from a young age and some can’t. Well that is not exactly true, it’s really very much dependant on what is happening in that child’s life at that time and what it is that they are being asked to concentrate on.

To help stimulate my kids ability to focus we do a variety of activities. Painting, obstacle courses in the house and garden (my wife prefers the latter), building projects involving Lego, marble-runs, etc.

I also insist on playing “daddy’s favourite game” with them which involves lying on the floor on our backs and staring upwards. As you can imagine it’s not very interesting to start off with. But after a bit of “focus on breathing”, our minds settle and we start to observe all kinds of details that would otherwise pass us by.

Out in the garden we can imaging shapes in clouds, spot birds and insects that we would normally miss and indoors we watch the way that the shadows and light shape our view of the ceiling. OK, I know it sounds a bit boring and we don’t play it often but it’s helpful for learning to concentrate even when it seems pointless or we lack the desire to do so.


4, Problem solving

My kids fight from time to time, it;’s a natural sibling thing to do. One of the things that I have tried to stop myself from doing is solving their conflicts for them. Instead I ask them about creative ways that they can resolve their own conflicts. Taking turns, making it in to a game, joke competitions, etc are all ways that they have solved conflicts.

The trouble with trying to find a problem for kids/students is that the problem has to not be too hard and not be too easy – a Goldilocks problem. Creating these is quite challenging, hence I don’t make too many of these. But instead help them to think about other ways to approach a problem.

For example, one of my kids had some issues with not being included in some games at school. We role-played it a couple of times and found that “inviting other to join us” or “asking to be invited to join them” was a good way to resolve it sometimes.

Seth Godin’s “The Dip” talks about how people get good at something and then get stuck, unable to become really awesome at something. I think that this in part due to a lack of creativity in finding different approaches in how to overcome obstacles.

5, Curiosity

Kids come with their own sense of curiosity. There are lots of ways to enhance and nurture this. One game that I play with the kids is “spot the trickseter”. In our house we have a small toy figure of one of the famous princesses. One day I decided that she would “borrow” some of the toys and hide them around the house with the princess standing next to her ill-gotten gains.

This game of spot-the princess really took off and when she disappeared for a year, we all missed her. It turns out one of my relatives joined in and then left the country. Luckily we found her again and now the game of spot the princess has begun again, and she has been busy causing all kinds of minor mischief in our home.

One recent example of her little schemes is the appearance of two identical princesses. When one of my kids asked why there were suddenly two, I replied “she has been stealing the secrets of the Lego Sith toys and figured out how to clone herself”. My kids face went from amazement to horror to amusement as they realised that I had bought a second toy. But for a brief moment, their minds were opened to a possible world in which things happen that are quite outside their normal expectations of everyday life.

In summary, the shaping of a child’s education is a monumental undertaking that makes conventional golem building look simple in terms of time, resource, and patience. Combining traditional religious education with the curriculum from Maimonides and a toolbox of: patience, self-awareness, focus, problem soling and curiosity will hopefully build a new well-rounded future generation of golem builders.



EDIT:  Everything that I have learned about parenting has come via my wife. Everything that I get wrong about being a parent is from me alone.