Once you start looking for connections...

Beth Lamb wrote this, of carousels, in an e-mail to me and has given me permission to share it here:
Our local zoo has a carousel right inside the door, and before my daughter was born, I had a bit of a cynical/jaded attitude toward the carousel. Literally the first thing the zoo invites you to do is spend more money riding the carousel and you have to walk right past it, where the kids can clearly see it, to do anything else. Which I thought was cheesy or tacky or something else negative.

Well once my daughter got old enough to notice it and ride it, she wanted to, so we did (she's too short to ride alone so I stand alongside her). That day happened to be particularly busy so the carousel was full of kids and as it started to turn, I could just feel their excitement and joy. I couldn't help smiling. Turns out that the ride is well worth the $2; it's such a sweet experience.

Now we offer (happily, not grudgingly) to let her ride every time we go to the zoo, both arriving and leaving, and we got an upgraded zoo membership for this year that includes unlimited carousel rides so I don't have to remember to bring cash with us.

My husband loves to support her (and my) interests. So he's made a point to find carousels for us to visit when we travel. We've ridden carousels at the Ft. Worth zoo (which is fairly close to us), the St. Louis zoo (close to my parents), and Balboa Park in San Diego on a trip to the zoo there.

The carousel operator at Balboa Park was a lovely man who carefully selected old timey carousel music to play and sat in the center of the carousel where he could watch the kids; if one started to slide off the horse, he would gracefully step up onto the carousel, gently reposition the child, and step back into the center to resume his watch. It was so neat to watch him at work.

This picture is from Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn, which was relocated and lovingly restored. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River in the background. The carousel is absolutely gorgeous and features a vintage player piano.

I know you will not be at all surprised how one simple choice to ride the carousel at the zoo has led to so many fun and interesting experiences, but it has been so wonderful for me to see it firsthand.

We are still working on letting go of so many old parenting ideas but we have come a long way and life is so much sweeter for it. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your family's experiences, collecting other unschoolers' writing on your website, and curating the discussions on FaceBook and Always Learning, all of which have been so valuable to me and my family.

Beth Lamb
January 2017

Bea Marshall, years ago when her boys were young:
Jos, age 5, watched Donald Duck over and over again. one day he said, "What's a Nazi?" So we talked about Hitler, WW2, armies, Jews, how Jesus was a Jew but is central to Christianity. A few months later we passed the memorial statue near our home. The boys stopped and asked, "what is that and why are there those flowers (poppies)?". So we talked about Remembrance and poppies and WW1. We talked about the men who were listed on the statue and the impact it might have had on Walkley (where we live) for all those families to lose sons, brothers, husbands, dads. Then Jos said, "So if Hitler is WW2, is Guy Fawkes the other war?". So then we talked about WW1 and Europe, we talked about Guy Fawkes and bonfire night and why we send up fireworks to celebrate/remember the attempt to blow up Parliament, we talked about British government, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. So Donald Duck led to British government. And lots of interesting discussions too 🙂
—Bea Marshall
June 2012, facebook

For those who were unaware of WWII propaganda cartoons, this should take you to several you could watch, and Disney's page about them. There's commentary linked there, too.
Donald Duck WWII Propaganda (that's what I searched)

Note from Sandra:
"One day Marty and I..." at the beginning was originally "Today Marty and I.... "Today" in the account had been February 22, 2008, so Marty had turned nineteen a week before, and Holly was sixteen.

One day Marty and I were standing in the kitchen talking about carnival games, traditional games and how they're designed to cheat people and how someone can be allowed to win (usually a physical manipulation of the mechanisms) to encourage others in. Then we talked about the gambling games on NeoPets. A slot machine game he liked has disappeared in the past week. We talked about how the programming of those games isn't random, but winning is way more likely than in real games (especially when real games can make winning even LESS likely than random).

The mail came. I had forgotten I had ordered some little tricks and toys from a site I came across looking for something or other. Wonder Workshops, Retro Toys and Science Amusements. [Site isn't there anymore, but the owner is selling on e-bay]

So we played with those things, which were also physically manipulated trick-things.

That all "just happened," but it happened because we've been building up to it with our whole lives and our whole style of communicating and living together in a constant state of open curiosity.

The reason I was thinking of the carnival games is that the other day Holly and I talked about suicide and how many people I've known who committed suicide. One was a guy named Nick who was in the SCA and used to work at a carnival and knew which of the games were Renaissance-old or older, and how to construct and operate them. I hadn't thought of Nick for a long time but Holly's boyfriend's ex girlfriend's husband had killed himself in Arizona. Nick, too, was from Arizona (I didn't mention that to them, but I'm telling you now.)

Once you start looking for connections and welcoming them, it creates a kind of flow that builds and grows.

Sandra Dodd, early 2008, on the Always Learning list here.

The Importance of Answering Questions by Nina, on her blog Amor y Risa ("love and laughter"):
Although it was not my intention to post about all of the questions we answer during the day, this seems to have become a regular part of this blog. These are questions that come up in discussions, during activities, or seemingly out of the blue and they arise out of curiosity and desire to learn.

My daughter learned to read when she was 6 by asking lots of questions (and I made sure to answer her right away). At night before we went to sleep she would ask what "fty" or "pmk" or "urw" said, and I would try to make the sounds as best as possible. Many nights we were all laughing uncontrollably at the funny sounds the 'words' made. When I would read stories, she would ask me to point right at the words as I read them. After a while she would ask "Is this word 'flower'?", or some word that she had heard me say and wanted to find it on the page. Many times it was a word that was repeated several times in the story.

If learning were a river, a question might be a tributary. Answering the question will add to the river. The more tributaries, the larger the river, and the farther it will flow. As long as the questions come, we answer them, and the learning continues to flow.

(backup copy of the post)

Jalen Owens had sent art for my video games page, and I sent him a letter and some stamps from a box where I chuck the foreign ones or pretty American stamps, because he collects them. When he sent the art, it had a cover letter and he told me to save it so I would have his signature someday when he's famous. I said I would save it with David Bowie's. He looked on my site to see that letter, and sent this by e-mail:
Thank you for gift of stamps. I don't know who David Bowie is and thought he said when I read the letter he sent you that he wanted to change his name so he wouldn't have the name of Davy Jones the pirate. My mom told me he meant like Davy Jones of The Monkees. We went on Youtube so I could see a David Bowie video and then we watch episodes of The Monkees which I liked. That led to learning they sang a song (I'm a Believer) That was in Shrek. We looked at Switerland because that was the first place David Bowie was married and then Italy. I learned his wife Iman was from Mogadishu Somalia so we looked at that. All of this and more because I sent in some art :). I'm still putting all the stamps together. They're really cool!
the David Bowie letter

Connections Wonder Strewing