One of my favourite memories of childhood is driving. We often lived in far flung country areas that meant that holidays are entwined with being in the car for me. Packing up after the last day of school and driving into the night to get o my grandparents' houses or our holiday house on Bribie Island. My sister and brother inevitably would fall asleep in the car. Our cat Simpkin stretched out along the back bench seat and Max the black lab at my feet.
During daylight hours I'd read books and watch the scenery pass by. At night time Dad would often set me mental arithmetic tasks like working out how far away we were from our destination by checking our average speed and the distance on the road signs and I gloried in working it down to the minutes.
When we travelled further then we had these ancient beat up maps that I loved following with my finger. Working out where we were, where we were going and all the little towns that we were going to pass through. I would sit back in our Commodore Vacationer and look at the big big sky and think about maps. And about destinations. This naturally fed my enthusiasm for atlases and globes, an obsession that stays with me today.
My babies are all good in the car, I figure it must be genetic. Aside from a little bit of seat touching and jibing eachother they're mostly really well behaved, with the Monkey almost always falling asleep within minutes. The Possum isn't bad either - and will happily entertain himself or gaze out the window before dutifully falling asleep as soon as the car hits 80km/h. But the Elfling almost never falls asleep. We fill in the time mostly by getting her to focus on the scenery passing by, but tonight on the trip home she was restless. She wouldn't st still andshe kept annoying her thoroughly overtired sister while demanding CDs of her choice.
After some tetchy, tired replies she eventually fell quiet and I hoped she'd fallen asleep for a change, but looked around to find her balancing the refidex on her lap. "Mum why is this called a bus map book" she asked, watching me with a distinctly confused look on her face. After several arguments back and forth that it wasn't a bus book, we realised it was labelled as a "Business" directory and that Miss I Am Starting to Read had made a fair assumption.
After a while of her asking for me to show her how to use the directory I decided to give it a go. We found where we were on the highway, with me leaning over the back of the seat and she followed with her finger as we went across creeks/rivers and under underpasses, looking for exit signs to check how fast her finger should move along the lines. The recognition as she realised how the map worked, and working out how to flip to the next map once you reached the end of the page was just magic. The discovery and the comprehension.
Her learning to read has been a stilted painful process, and it has been with tongue firmly between my teeth that we have persevered even though it was patently obvious that she wasn't quite ready to start. And I will admit to frustration and even a bit of despair - worried that my beautiful Elfling was not as bright as other children and that I was failing her somehow through my inability to enjoy home readers and flash cards as other children gloried in reading Encyclopaedia Britannica over the dinner table.
But tonight, in the fading golden light of Easter Sunday I was reminded of the beauty of discovery and the enchanting, bubbling sensation of watching your child learn and not only learn but enjoy it. School has sapped so much out of the joy of learning. Too much focus on benchmarks and tiers and reading levels and less about the whole point - which is to engender that love of finding new things and remembering them and applying them. Of which my beautiful Elfling reminded me tonight.