May 28, 2007

Chaucer, The Teacher

Chuck and I were reminiscing a couple of weeks ago about a poem we had to learn as seniors in high school. Although it had been more than16 years since those words were originally memorized and recited, they flowed out of my mouth with the same rhythm and trepidation from all those years ago. The poem is the first few lines of the Prologue from "The Canterbury Tales", taken from the old English: Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,The droghte of March hath perced to the roote. You've just gotta love how it flows and sounds. Anyways...I didn't have the appreciation for it back then, but now, I can't consume it fast enough.

So, I decided to go check it out at the library - the modern English version, of course! As much as I love the Old English, my brain is too dense to read an entire book written in that format. That has been my casual reading book of choice lately. It's been lying around on coffee tables, the kitchen table, the counter-top, pretty much wherever I lay it down after having a few sacred seconds of alone time. Unbeknownst to me, Gavin has been picking it up after I have laid it down. Herein lies the moral of this story: most learning happens when you aren't planning for or expecting it.

I told the kids that Mommy needed a little private time to read and headed out back to sit at the patio table. Less than 3 minutes later, Gavin was sitting next to me. Obviously, I haven't done an adequate enough job of teaching the definition of the phrase 'private time'. However, when one of my children wants to spend time talking with me, I just can't refuse and listened to what important thoughts were on his mind. Turns out, it was Chaucer.

He tells me, "Mom, I've been reading a bit of that book that you're reading and I really like it. It's pretty amazing how he rhymes every two lines. I read the part about a Duke." Hmmm, oh really. Thus began an hour of awesome conversation that was neither planned nor prepared. We dove into the history of the time of Chaucer's life (1340's), England and the customs of their day, knights, religion (explaining the pilgrimage), language arts (we tried to describe people we knew by only describing their character), poetry (appreciating the difficulty and scope of Chaucer's work as well as differing styles), the sciences (many of which Chaucer studied and was extremely proficient in), languages (what Old English is and other languages Chaucer spoke)...all because he wanted to talk to me about "The Canterbury Tales". Had I insisted on my own time, I'm sure we would have eventually covered the myriad of subjects we just navigated our way through. But it wouldn't have been as dear to me as him initiating a 'grown up' conversation with me. I LOVE these teachable moments. They're all around. How many other's have I missed, I wonder?
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