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"It seems to have been the beginning of everything. The treasures of a new, beautiful world were laid at my feet, and I took in pleasure and information at every turn. I lived myself into all things. I was never still a moment; my life was as full of motion as those little insects that crowd a whole existence into one brief day. I met many people who talked with me by spelling into my hand, and thought in joyous sympathy leaped up to meet thought; and behold, a miracles had been wrought! The barren places between my mind and the minds of others blossomed like the rose." - Helen Keller
My kid's book club recently read The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. This corresponded nicely with a local play of the The Miracle Worker, as well as our family's classic movie night, where we watched the 1962 Patty Duke movie, The Miracle Worker.
The kids were enthralled with the story of Keller's life in darkness and her eventual language acquisition. They could not believe the gulf between her early bad behavior (especially as acted out in the play and movie) and her later abilities. She learned to climb trees, row boats, bicycle, read in multiple languages, identify plants, write books, and even to speak! The kids found her flowery language hard to appreciate, but overall, I they would recommend it.
After we discussed the book, we talked a lot about our senses and how they inform each other. I blind folded the kids and then served them each a snack. They had to figure out how to neatly eat a cupcake and ice cream cup (that had a lid). Then they cleaned up their area and walked across the room to throw away their garbage based on what they remembered of the room we were meeting in. This part of the meeting was a hit!
Luckily, our library has a small braille book collection, so we explored those and talked about blind people we knew. In particular, I shared about my grandmother who became blind later in life. She had all sorts of helping devices and tricks in her apartment. We also talked about service dogs and what might have happened to Keller if she did not have a family who could afford to seek out help for her.
I personally was impressed with her story and resolve to both understand the world and communicate her ideas. Her life was full of hard work and amazing teachers and mentors. As a mother and homeschooler, her educational journey was inspirational and certainly motivated me. She writes the following of her beloved Anne Sullivan,
"Thus I learned from life itself. At the beginning I was only a little mass of possibilities. It was my teacher who unfolded and developed them. When she came, everything about me breathed of love and joy and was full of meaning. She has never since let pass an opportunity to point out the beauty that is in everything, nor has she ceased trying in thought and action and example to make my life sweet and useful."
Yes. That is what a teacher should do.
Have you read The Story of My Life with your kids?
How did they respond?