Designing reading

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A neighbor stopped me on the street just now to ask what she and her nephew should be reading together. “he’s six but he reads like an eight year old,” she said, “and he’s growing up fast. But he likes classic books. We’re reading Winnie-the-Pooh together right now, and he’s noticing that Christopher Robin is growing up.”

“Natalie Babbitt,” I said. “Tuck Everlasting and Goody Hall. The Devil’s Storybook and the Search for Delicious.”

“What else?” she said. “Would you make me a list?”

“Sure,” I replied. “E.B. White: Stuart Little and the Trumpet of the Swan. Or what about Charlotte’s Web or The Cricket in Times Square?”

“Make me a list,” she insisted, and we said our farewells.

What would you put on the list? It’s harder than you might think. A lot of material I see today dumbs things down for kids, or underplays their potential, or limits their options for the future. How many kids are going to take up archery because of the Hunger Games? (I’d put Little Brother on the list, but I’m perverse like that — the book contains a how-to chapter between each chapter of the story on how to subvert authorities and digital networks. Maybe that is part of what we should teach? But I digress. ) in any case, It’s not a challenge many kids can solve on their own. What stories encourage kids to be great thinkers and leaders, and tells them the stories of cunning, pluck, bravery and independent thought, as well as engineering and know how that will help them succeed in this apocalypse recession we’re apparently planning to continue through the next four to six years at least?

Taiji day 50: work the subroutines

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In my taiji form, there are six or eight basic sub-routines. I think of them as the core elements of the practice. Each of these subroutines contains six or eight postures or positions, and the idea is to flow from one routine to the next smoothly. Passing from one routine to the next is like walking through a door. You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen on the other side, but you can’t be sure without opening up and walking through.

One of the subroutines sequences goes like this:

  • roll back
  • press
  • push
  • single whip

This pattern of four moves appears seven or eight times in the whole sequence, beginning to end, so it’s a good thing to practice, to make sure you get it right. No other sequence repeats so frequently. You want to practice those more frequently? Guess what? Every one of those other routines begins with a single whip and ends with a roll back. Break the work into subroutines,cod the subroutines, practice the common transitions, and keep doing it. The most common patterns are the most instinctive… but you have to practice them consciously, just like everything else, to find them instructive.