Observing our children at play, you will see that left on their own, they will, fairly quickly, establish a market economy. There will be many things for sale, with fair or dear prices, and regardless, there will be a busy trade in cakes, tea, coffee, soup, muffins, and housing. While they will find things to make, sell, and buy, children will also work to establish who the experts are in any field they have a need for -- this could be in finding ingredients for those baked goods and beverages, but there is also a real need for those experts that can tie shoes, snap pants, zip jackets, or are in the know about superhero powers, game rules, or other Very Important Details...
Like writing. The children look for scribes. The person who can write sends out words for those in need of Very Important Messages. Today, a boy established himself as that expert on writing when he wrote the note, "I love you." With these green lines, he instantly became the go-to person for words on paper. Once words are put on paper, they hold such great power that they become something that simply everyone needs. He had his work cut out for him, in both writing notes and in helping other children write their own.
And that's when things got complicated...
One of the boys ran past, thrilled with a note that Explained It All. It said, "I hate Blue Toad." The secret to this note is the blue marker, the note holder told me. He said, "______ showed me how to write it, but I used blue to mean 'Blue Toad.'"
Now. You will need to know that two of the children were pretending to be Blue Toads at this very moment. Just before taking the time to write this note, all three were playing a version of against. This note was held high with authority and clarity of mission. And 'hate' is no small word. It is not an easy one to hear. I needed to check in with the Blue Toads. How were they feeling about the note? Here is their answer, "We're okay with it. It is part of the game." They knew that the note was not directed to them personally, but towards the roles they had chosen in play and that it was another chess piece in their game.
Okay, but then I had to check in at the picnic table in the back where our scribe was busy at work, alongside some of his apprentices. He gleefully showed me what he had been writing. I thought, "Oh joy. Who said we actually want them to write in nursery school?"
Kind of opposite of the "I love you" note certainly, but just as playful. The red letters spelling out, 'you are dumb' he viewed as especially funny with that drum roll at the end with the extra 'dumb.' That is the way he read it, as if beating a drum. Then there is the 'I hate u' with the use of the letter u standing in for the word, 'you.' He was trying to work out an equivalent for the heart symbol for love and arrived at the 'x'.
Well, here we go! We have regular discussions about words in early childhood. That is our business after all, introducing rich and varied language. The word dumb and hate send alarm bells, but they are just words and it is how you use them. Our scribe is not mean, but he is definitely experimenting with words and boundaries. And it seems that the word, 'hate' was much in demand because even as I was talking to him about his words it was being cheerfully bandied about by a handful of running children as they chased each other on the play ground.
The time to go home did not arrive a moment too soon. I rang the bell and pulled the children together for a meeting. Even though not all the children were directly involved with 'I hate...' business, they certainly could hear it being shouted and chanted from all parts of the play ground. We conducted a quick check-in about the word and how it was being used, and everyone needed to be at the meeting. I needed to deal with one word at a time and I chose hate because, it seemed it was deemed useful in the play and popular at the moment.
"You are using that word, hate, like it is a toy. You are tossing it around like it doesn't mean anything. And it does. It is a big word and can't be used like a toy."
I hope we go back to selling cupcakes and muffins tomorrow.