Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Wisdom of Solomon

Well, we tried to talk with the kids about Solomon on Sunday. Parts of the story, I think they found very interesting. They liked the idea that Solomon got what he asked for--and also all the things he might have been expected to ask for. They were quite thoroughly appalled that he had three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. "At the same time?" asked Lachlan.

"How did he remember all of their names?" David wanted to know. Good question.

We proposed the problem of the women with the infant. "How would you figure out who the true mother was?"

"Roll dice," said Amanda.
"Have them pick a number between one and ten!" said David.
"Flip a coin," said Lachlan.
"So, you'd let chance decide?" I asked. They all agreed that it was the fairest way. When we revealed Solomon's solution, I don't think any of them got it. Everyone thought it was gross (even though he didn't actually cut the baby in half!). None of them were interested in the value of positive proof that one woman was the true mother (or, if not, at least the better mother).

Amanda said something interesting: "It's like the lady who nailed the guy in the head." JC and I took a few minutes to figure out that she was talking about Jael. This story had basically nothing to do with Jael (except that they're both pretty gruesome), but I felt gratified that she remembered something we had talked about so long ago. Certain stories have really stuck with her--she mentions Rahab a lot (and kind of out of context) too.

We tried talking about Proverbs. That went well in that they had a lot of questions. We had them take turns selecting a proverb for the class to talk about, but they were so impatient that they would only wait until the other student's proverb had been read before shouting out their own. "Wait," I would say, "I want to talk about Amanda's proverb first. Then we'll read yours and discuss it." It was in the discussion that the whole thing fell apart. I always make the mistake of forgetting how literal kids this age can be. "Why does it say that a wise son is the joy of his father, but a fool is the sadness of his mother? Wouldn't a fool make his father sad too?"
I asked David what he thought the proverb he chose meant. "I don't know," he said. "That's why I chose it."

The kids really like the times when we allow them to chose text--even if it's at random, as with the Psalms. I think they like having some kind of ownership. I think they like being able to say, "In my Psalm, the rocks rejoice."

So, I guess it went pretty well. They were a bit on the hyper side, but that's forgivable--at least they were excited about what we were working on. So...good!

I tried talking with Amanda's mother about figuring out some way to reward Amanda's good behavior (rather than bad) with "mom time." She said, "Well, Amanda knows that the reason I'm in there on Wednesday nights is because of her behavior."
So, the logic is...if the kid knows that it's supposed to be a punishment, then she won't like it? I remember being a kid--time with a parent, without one's siblings, is the most valuable thing a kid can get. Who cares if it's "supposed" to be a punishment? I give up--but I hope I remember this when I have kids of my own.

One other thing--kind of disturbing. JC and I tried to talk to the kids about Ali's father's death. I was shocked to discover that they talked about it like something they had heard on the news--completely unconnected with this man they all knew, with his daughter who was their friend. When I was in middle school, a girl in the youth orchestra lost her dad to a brain tumor, and I hardly knew him, but I was affected by it. I remember fearing that my own parents would die young, and trying to imagine what it would be like to go through my life without one of them. I expected some kind of emotional response from my students...but got none at all. One of them--and I shall leave out which--said, with almost a smile and the most placid tone of voice imaginable, "That must be heartbreaking!" (JC later commented: "At least they know how they're supposed to feel...")

I shouldn't judge them for just being young things. At that age, can you really understand death? They probably had a completely natural response. I don't know how I handled death at that age--I was a few years older when the girl from orchestra lost her dad, and a few years makes a big difference at that age. I don't think anyone close to me died until I was in high school, so maybe I just lack any basis of comparison.

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