Familiar Conversations Part Two

by Mary Ann on May 11, 2010

I want to talk a bit more about “familiar conversation” and both parent and child self-education.

When parents are engaged in their own education familiar conversations are enhanced even more. I am not currently taking any formal classes. I do, however, read a lot and discuss what I read with other people. That is why I was able to engage my ten year old granddaughter in a conversation about our political process.

While traveling to a wedding shower with my sister and one of my daughters we discussed at least three books. We are all self-educating. What a great drive that was. Don’t be afraid to talk with your young children about what you are studying, reading and learning. Sometimes we feel that certain books or subjects are too hard, above or mature for our children.

Let’s take Lord of the Flies for example. That is certainly a classic, although not one of my favorite books. However, I did just read it again recently. There is a lot in that book to make a person think. So can I talk to a four year old about it? What about an eight year old or a twelve year old? My answer would be YES, you can and should. These are the ages for teaching core values. This is a book that makes a person think about their core values.

So how do we do it? Can we have a “familiar conversation” about a book like this with small children? Let’s sit together at dinner.

Dad – I’m reading a book Called Lord of the Flies. I don’t like the story very much. It’s sad.

Eight year old – What’s it about dad?

Dad – Well, it’s about some boys who are stranded alone on an island. They don’t have any grownup with them.

Twelve year old – What’s sad about that? I’d love to be on an island without any grown ups. That would be awesome.

Dad- Well being able to do whatever you want might be good for awhile, but what if one of the boys talked a lot of the other boys into believing or acting in ways that were mean to some boys.

Four year old – That’s bad dad.

Eight year old – Well what did the boy want them to do.

Dad – Well, they really teased one boy who was over weight.

Twelve year old – We have a girl in our class that gets teased a lot. I’m glad I’m not her.

Dad- Hmmmm, I guess we don’t have to be on an island for people to make poor choices.

Four year old – I wouldn’t be mean to people dad.

And that conversation could go on for a long time and take a number of twists and turns.

Now let’s jump to the next day. Dad and his twelve year old son are weeding in the garden.

Twelve year old – Dad, tell me some more about that book.

So dad gives a brief synopsis. There is a long silence as they weed.

Twelve year old – Dad, do you think that Piggy would have been killed if more of the boys had stood up and said what they thought about it?

Dad makes a comment. There is another long silence as they weed.

Twelve year old – Dad, did you ever have a situation when you didn’t know what to do?

Dad- Sure, everyone does. What’s up John?

Twelve year old – Well, there is this boy in school and he keeps telling me and Fred…………

And there you have it, the value of “familiar conversation”. John will read “Lord of the Flies” sometime when he is older. It will mean a great deal more to him than if it had been assigned and tested and graded.

We as parent mentors need to be learning. We need to be discussing life, books, thoughts, philosophy with those around us. We should attend book groups, take a class or two, teach someone else. And then we need to engage our children, our families, in “familiar conversations”. We will all learn a great deal more if we do.

“By familiar conversation, children’s curiosity may be roused much more effectually, and by it they may be taught a great deal more in a little time, than can possibly be done in the austere magisterial way of calling them to a lecture.” George Turnbull, 1742

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