Most parents feel they shouldn’t ask their child to be quiet – even tell them to stop talking – when they repeat themselves over and over and over again. It can seem counter-intuitive to the process of learning language. I believe learning language is so much more than repeating words, or learning the alphabet. It is also observing the way other people use language (or silence) to communicate. It is nearly impossible to hear what other people are saying if you are constantly talking. That goes for adults as well as children.
I remember feeling quite content to simply be in the same room with my daughter when she was little, while I did one activity (like making art, or making dinner), and she was doing something else (like playing, looking at books, drawing). There might be music playing, or not. There was just a lovely feeling of being connected – to each other and to the activity that we each individually were involved with at that moment.
Toward the end of each playgroup session, we have “reading time.” There are six unique woven mats that I got at The American Indian Museum in New York City about eight years ago – one for each child. They get to know their mat’s pattern and love to identify it, receive it from Kristen or me, and then sit down on their mat in a semi-circle. It always surprises me how early in the year they adapt to this ritual. Then, we take turns ringing our Tibetan singing bowl. They love to hand it carefully to the child sitting next to them when their turn is done. The only rule here is that they try to be very quiet so they can hear everyone else ring the singing bowl. They are very proud to do this – it’s so lovely!! Then, I read two to three books to them, at the end of which I say “Let’s go see who’s at the door!” We go to the door and say “good-bye” in many languages. Then say “One, two, three!” When I open the door, it is (mostly!) a joyous occasion.
I was really moved by your comments today on quiet. There is something so powerful about being together in shared silence. I went to Friend’s on 16th street from kindergarten through high school (long time ago!), and every day we gathered together, like your circle of mats, and shared a moment of silence. That small ritual has stayed with me and reading about your lovely kids staring their own shared ritual reminded me how special and important it is. Many thanks for your thoughts and insight.