The Communication Game

In the basic writing course I used to teach for homeschoolers, we used a game called The Communication Game where students learn that sometimes the reader understands the words differently than what the writer meant. The kids would describe a picture to a person who couldn’t see the picture, and the listener would draw what he heard.  Inevitably, the drawers drew things the speaker didn’t intend.  They interpreted the words differently.

It’s difficult to have an open conversation when participants don’t understand the terms, when they hear something different than is meant. When I first heard the phrase “Black lives matter” my reaction was to question.  To defend.  I thought of course they matter, but no more than anyone else’s.  My inner response (even when silent) was “all lives matter.”

The most common reaction I see to a statement about institutionalized racism is, “I’m not a racist!” which shows that the listeners are feeling personally attacked, even though Individuals do not have to be racist for a system to be set up in a way that benefits one group more than another.  

It’s tough to move past defending ourselves and move into listening to what the other person is experiencing.

In the Communication Game, we teach the kids that it is the writer/speaker’s responsibility to choose words that will be understood. The speaker (in the class, it was the writer) was taught to choose words accurately and specifically.  To give context.  To use objective words rather than subjective ones. To figure out what is being heard and make sure to be understood.  Ultimately, of course, the listener has to be willing to listen rather than to assume.  Communication is a two way street.

Miscommunication in writing is definitely a bigger issue because of missing out on all the nonverbal cues. In our internet based society, people communicate through writing more than ever. Compounding the problem is communicating with people you don’t know well face to face, so you can’t interpret with personality, plus communicating in tiny bits so it’s harder to interpret in context. We start taking shortcuts like hashtags and slogans, but if those mean something different to the recipient than the speaker…communication drops through a black hole.

I’m working on trying to hear what people are really saying on this issue rather than filtering it through my experiences. I’ve not witnessed a LOT of racism (some, not a lot). And I’ve never been stopped by the police except when I was actually doing something wrong, like expired stickers or speeding, and all of those incidents ended peacefully. Others have different experiences.  This photo is helpful to me in understanding what is being said.





Nobody scores zero

Has it come to this?  Are our children really that fragile?

My teenage kids competed in a homeschool invitational volleyball tournament over the weekend (okay, they participated in part of a tournament because the tornados touched down and it was cancelled, but that’s a different story…).  What is bubbling around in my head is the scoring system used for the pool play.

Instead of starting with a score of 0-0 and ending when one team reached 21, the games all started with a score of 4-4 and ended when a team reached 25.

Someone has waved a magic wand and eliminated the possibility of some poor athlete feeling sad if her team didn’t score.  Nobody can end the game with zero points!  Hooray for fake self-esteem.

Seriously, are our children that fragile?  They can’t stomach the possibility of not scoring during a game?

Also, are they that mathematically ignorant that they can’t figure out that if everyone starts with 4 points, then nobody has an advantage, and it works out the same as starting the 0 points?

Are they that easily fooled that if they end the game at 4 points, they don’t realize they didn’t score?

Are they that out of touch with reality that they don’t know that to score a point in a sport they have to actually score a point?

I can’t decide what it is about this “scoring” system that bugs me so much.  Maybe it feels like being overly politically correct.  Maybe it feels like feeding an entitlement generation who believe they “deserve” points just for showing up.  Maybe it feels like pandering.  Maybe it feels like being ridiculously overprotective.  Maybe it’s just dumb.

I totally understand not pushing little children into being too competitive too early.  I even understand when little leagues don’t keep score for the youngest athletes’ games.  But this was a tournament of teenagers.  Teenagers are mature enough to deal with the possibility of not scoring a point.

If they aren’t, then we aren’t doing them any favors by insulating them further.

Dropping Eggs

We didn’t dye a single egg this Easter.  Didn’t put candy inside any plastic ones, or search for cleverly hidden ones.  My “babies” are too old.  Sigh.  I did purchase a few bags of candy and throw them at my teenagers, if that counts.

So today…we dropped eggs off the roof instead.  All in the name of science.

My youngest (14) is totally enraptured by the whole idea of an egg drop competition.  He researched online, consulted multiple family members, and brainstormed multiple designs, each more complicated than the last.  The prospect of climbing on the roof each time to test a new design holds a certain appeal as well.

Our particular contest doesn’t limit the types of construction materials for the egg drop container, but it grades on a formula that rewards light weight and few parts, as well as a bonus for accurately hitting a target.  So complicated designs are out.

After a few unsuccessful design attempts, this morning Sean stumbled upon the perfect design which requires only one piece: his pajama pants.  No kidding.  He wrapped his pj pants around an egg and used the attached tie to fasten it.  Perfectly accurate.  Lowest possible pieces.  Not overly heavy.

Sometimes, science is comfortable.

Bonus, I let him climb the roof again.  Why not?


Performing, performing, performing

My kids are constantly performing.

And while performing for mom at home will do in a pinch, they actively seek bigger audiences.  Life would be easier if they were content to be properly unsocialized homeschoolers.  I had the joy of watching two of the three wrap up a learning/rehearsing/performing project this week.  The oldest opened the show Into the Woods at our community theatre, playing Jack (climber of beanstalks, slayer of giants).  It’s his lead role in a play that was NOT an all youth production.  Friday night was 18 years in the making and worth every moment.

My middle girl filmed her second ASL music video.  ASL is her passion (not the big stage like her brother), and one of her favorite ways to learn is by interpreting songs with friends.  The 4-H Has Talent competition is the impetus for completing this videos, but I think she’d make them anyway (eventually…) even without a formal deadline.  The deadlines help, though. 🙂