The Art of Language

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Leslie Ann Daniels

Andy Kilroy, one of Oak Meadow’s outstanding k-8 teachers, strongly believes in instilling a love of education in our children. She values the art of language, which is so nicely portrayed in the following essay she composed…
151rTvb9VIfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As a teacher who spent most of her professional life in a classroom, my transition to teaching home schooled children has been a joyous realization that there is more to education than memorization, standardized tests and adherence to educational systems that stress conformity and rules. As a mother of five and grandmother of six, I have long realized that sometimes the best sense is nonsense, and that concept is richly illustrated in the pages of a childhood favorite, Winnie-the-Pooh. In today’s stressful and results-oriented world, it is often refreshing to take a step back and look at the value of using language as Pooh Bear does, not to convey specific and important information, but as a means of expression and creativity.
1WinniethepoohYoung children, just learning the joys of reading and language are often charmingly serious. They want to get “it” right, whatever “it” might be on that particular day. They learn that the marks on paper are words and that words have specific meanings, and that to express themselves in the big, wide world, they need to master this difficult thing called “language.” They want to be understood in the world into which they are so earnestly seeking entry. How then do they react when confronted with the fanciful use of language used by Winnie and his delightful friends? Who says words like “heffalump” and “hunny”? Who writes poems, called “hums,” that have a refrain of “Tiddly Pom?” Who speaks of someone who is feeling a bit pessimistic as being “eeyorish”? Winnie does, that is who, and although Pooh is a bear of very little brain, according to Rabbit, he is loved by all for his down to earth good sense and loving nature. Generations of children, and adults, have found great joy in their association with Pooh, who humbly accepts his limitations in the brain department and finds it no great bar to understanding and expressing himself to the world around him, although at times he has to resort to very creative language use to explain his ideas:
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it,” says Winnie!
1tumblr_m49slrKbBa1rwrcuso1_500What a wonderful word is “thingish” as it so perfectly expresses that ineffable “something” that we often can’t find words to express. “Thingish” finds resonance with listeners who have frequently experienced the lack of the perfect word to express their ideas. I submit that “thingish” is the perfect word in some situations to clearly convey the precise meaning of the imprecision of our thoughts! Who among us has not experienced the need for a perfect word, but in our anxiety to achieve precision of language has given up the quest and settled with the inadequate phrase, “Oh, you know what I mean?” How much better to invent a word that conveys exactly what we are thinking? This longing for the right word must be so much more pronounced for our little ones who are just learning language, but who also have important ideas to convey! The idea that, for the youngest among us, this can be a frustrating process, and is best expressed in the immortal words of Pooh Bear:
“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”
1477d7297a60b5ba057228c41e7bbc9c0So, my plea is to encourage our little learners to see language as an imprecise art form that has life and can adapt, even if their spelling “wobbles”. One has to look no further than the pages of a variety of children’s books to see that our language is alive and well and is in the process of adapting and changing to suit the needs of those who wield that language. It is important we all understand that language is for our use and need not constrain us or rob us of our authentic voice. This is even truer for children as they begin to navigate the world of reading and writing. Encourage them to embrace their ability to use language to perfectly express themselves, even if this expression takes the form of creative words they craft to express their ideas with precision. In the immortal words of Maurice Sendak, a master of this process if there ever was one, “Let the wild rumpus begin!”
For those who would like to learn more about the language of Pooh, there is a wonderful blog post on the Oxford Dictionary web page at: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/11/winnie-the-pooh/
 
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