So, it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been in the midst of a fairly intense case of edublogging ennui of late, thus the pretty shallow link blogging that’s been showing up here. I’m in one of those grim spaces that I get into with all of this from time to time, the one where it feels like everything is pretty much of an echo, that there’s nothing moving, that I have nothing new, important or even intelligent to say, that there’s nothing new to read. That the world is moving too fast. That the conversation about schools is moving too slowly. That I’ve hit some sort of ceiling.
Thus I’ve been continuing my little respite from deep thinking and air travel (the second of which ends tomorrow with a trip to North Dakota) by playing with my kids, running (10K in 53 mins on Saturday…oy) and reading lots of books, some of which actually have nothing to do with education and learning. (What a concept!) And there have been pony club competitions and soccer games and recitals and parties. And I think I’ve reached the point where my kids are almost…almost…wanting me to go back and spend more time on the computer.
Yep…it’s been that good.
But the most interesting piece has been watching my son’s blooming passion for baseball. I think I may have blogged about this before, but a couple of months ago I was rooting around in my garage for some rust-laden gardening tool when I found a old, faded-red, Converse shoe box packed to the gills with my Topps baseball card collection from the late sixties that somehow had trailed along with me all of these years. The mold on the box was enough to get me wheezing, and the cards had that gritty, hadn’t seen daylight in a while feel, so I turned the cache over to Tucker and said “Hey, you can have these if you want them.” I don’t even think he knew what he was looking at when he first opened the box, but some atavistic baseball gene must of been set afire because ever since he’s been a non-stop baseball question machine, mostly along the lines of “Hey Dad, was Carl Yasertski good?” with me responding “Yas-trem-ski, Tuck, and yes, he was good.”
Over the course of the last couple weeks, he’s actually shifted his computer use from Club Penguin to the Beckett online price guide site where we anted up $4.99 for a month’s worth of searching their gazillion card database to see how much all these “treasures” were worth. And he’s gone through all of them. As in about 750 of ’em. (Picture a seven-year-old typing in “Red Schoendienst.”) And, since we’re talking about a seven year old’s nascent attempts at creating an organizational scheme to keep track of all of it, we’re talking about, I’d say, 1200-1500 searches at this point. Think teetering piles on the desk, the floor, the couch and an evil sister who “accidentally” knocks them over.
But he’s made some finds, like the Thurman Munson rookie card that in “mint” (not “pseudo-moldy”) condition is worth $100. (We’re calling it $75 for now.) And the three…count ’em…three Pete Rose cards from 1968 that are each worth $60…er…somewhere around $40. And all the ones he’s found that are worth over $5 and set off a mad dash through the house along the lines of “Dad! Dad! I found a Harmone Killaber for $12! Was he good?” “Kill-e-brew, Tuck, and yes, he was pretty good.”
Anyway, all of this has led to a couple of quality, highly stereotypical father-son moments of Tucker and me lazing on the couch watching a Yankees or Phillies game, (the Mets are forbidden) his new card album in his lap, incessantly asking questions about the game, soaking it all up, and me thinking wistfully how cool it would have been to (wait for it…) have a father to do all this with me when I was growing up. (Sniff.)
But here’s the thing…the intensity of his passion for learning about these badly posed baseball players from 40 years ago and about how the game is played today has really amazed me. And I’m thinking, what does he need second grade for? He’s learning all sorts of math (he really gets batting averages and earned run averages, I think) and geography (think Google Maps of baseball stadiums) and history (“No Tuck, they didn’t have steroids when Hank Aaron played”) and economics (“Why are some cards worth more than others?”) and physics (“How does he make that ball curve like that?”) and reading and spreadsheets and globalization and…you get the idea. There is a lot to learn from baseball, but more importantly, there is a lot to learn from passion. And none of it is happening on a WORKSHEET!
Too. Much. Fun.
Oh, and by the way, there is one thing I’m modeling for him, and that is what passion can do for your memory. My wife sat in complete, dumbstruck silence yesterday as for 15 minutes Tucker waded through a big stack of cards and threw names at me.
Tucker: “Sal Bando”
Me: “Oakland A’s, third base.”
Tucker: “Cookie Rojas”
Me: “Phillies, second base.”
Tucker: “Jim Frogose”
Me: “Fer-go-si…Angels, shortstop.”
And so it went. I missed one…I had Wade Blasingame on the Twins instead of the Astros.
Let’s see, now what do I remember from high school…?
Dean Shareski says
Combine this with a little Ken Burns (watched him last night on the Tim McCarver Show) bringing the images of Buck O’Neil or for Tucker maybe Rod Carew (my boyhood idol) to life using his infamous “pan and zoom” and you have a complete curriculum!
PS. I think of Cookie Rojas as a KC Royal…shows a partial generational difference.
You just gave me a great idea for my (still in development) Current Events class: sets of cards with faces and places in the news.
My son was in elementary school when Operation Desert Storm was taking place, and he and I assembled binders full of the card sets featuring generals, weapons, nations, etc. involved. This activity provided him with information and made the world situation more manageable for him. I understand that similar cards surfaced during other conflicts.
My son, the lover of facts and statistics, is now a local sportscaster. Perhaps you’ve started your son on the same path, with his eyes firmly set on sports and not war.
Anne Reardon says
And then continue the passion with some reading…
Try The Baseballl Card Adventures series written by Dan Gutman (http://www.dangutman.com/). In the stories, a boy uses baseball cards as a time machine. When holding a card, he travels back to the time of the player on that card and interacts with him. The series started with Honus and Me, but includes stories about Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and more.
In preparation for a videoconference with the author last fall, we had a class of fifth graders (mostly boys) that went nuts over these books. Not only did they learn something about history, but they were fighting each other for the next available copy of the books. Might be a fun way to continue this father-son time over the summer! Enjoy!
Susan M. says
Loved it, and I’m a girl! Go ahead and take the time you need for your respite or edublogging ennui as long as you come back occasionally and write like this.
I have had a similar experience with my 2 boys, 5 and 7, both falling in love with rugby league, Im in Australia, and am sitting here with some new cards to take home. There now studying teams around Australia, England and NZ, and have with our help purchased some historical books from ebay. We have even discovered that their great grandfather and his brothers were all famous footballers, and are in these books. Even better is watching them play this sport they love so much, its the highlight of my week.
Oh and by the way Ive only started reading your blog in the last 5 weeks and am enjoying and learning something new all the time.
Daniel K. says
I became a librarian (or I am becoming one) because of my happy memories of collecting cards. I used to sit for hours surrounded by boxes of cards, reading stats, checking for condition, researching the value and thinking of new ways to display my favorite cards in my binder with plastic sheets (chronological, team, favorite players, etc.). I lost the passion when I no longer traded them with friends and when the card business became a big business (packs of cards for $10!!).
I am still looking for a collectible fix as an adult.
Eric Langhorst says
Will – I did a podcast / blog a couple of weeks ago with an “education and baseball theme” with some links to resources for using baseball in the classroom – episode #86 on Speaking of History. The Hall of Fame has some great material available online.
In terms of baseball I would also suggest “The Soul of Baseball – A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”. It is a really good book that blends baseball and life through the stories of Buck O’Neil.
Thanks for a great post, I enjoyed reading it.
Dan L. says
Will, not to re-direct, but my youth was informed by STAMP collecting! So much I learned about geography, money systems, data management, languages, history. Maybe another topic, another day!
I noticed something interesting in this post.. Until the 7th comment from Eric, NO ONE used your name nor addressed you by name. Interesting phenomenon.. a totally personal post with impersonal responses…
chris larry says
The distance learning department at the Baseball Hall of Fame does some excellent videoconferencing virtual interactivce field trips combing science and math curriculum to baseball….maybe you can get Tuck’s school to book some!
Welcome to unschooling!
Karen Stearns says
Hi Will, great post. I remember how interesting it was to me to hear that a friend of mine kept dozens of small hand-written notebooks of basebal stats when he was a kid. Hadn’t much use for school but like Tucker he sure had use for math!
I am always amazed at how boring school is for most kids–when it could be so incredibly interesting a la your post’s suggestions about Tucker’s passion for the cards and what they represent.
If he were in my 11th grade Eng. class I would be asking him to revisit that childhood collection for a great personal or multi-genre essay and then giving him (if he were still interested) book after book to read about baseball. My favorite is still “Bang the Drum Slowly.” Remember, DeNiro plays the catcher in the film version. I wonder if this passion had been ignited while he was still in school if his teacher would have known anything about it–given that there is so often no space whatsoever in the CURRICULUM for honest passion. What a shame!
Thought everyone who responded here had some great suggestions for continuing to fuel the passion.
Excellent post…enjoyed reading it.
Tom Turner says
Loved the story Will!
I’m sure many a young man can remember vivid stories of spending countless days and hours with dad watching “America’s Pastime!” Myself included, being blessed enough to have my dad coach my little league team. To that effect, the Sunday prior to NECC, my dad’s coming up to Atlanta and we are taking in the Braves/Tigers, and to top it off, sitting in the front row behind the Tigers bench. Ahh to be young again. I can’t wait to buy the program so we can score the game together, which amounts to fighting over whether or not it was a hit or an error 🙂
Terry Elliott says
My first born learned how to read with Calvin and Hobbes and baseball cards. Somehow his brain put together the picture, the sound of the player’s name, and the letters. It took a little while for him to get it, but heck it was pure joy for this baseball fan to buy and read this to my first born buddy boy. I still throw him a pack a baseball cards every once in awhile even though (maybe especially because) he is 25.
No, he doesn’t need second grade.
Will, I corridinated a videoconference between the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a fifth grade class in our area. As Chris Larry writes they are excellent. In a game show format, students were to work through statistical problems in order to score as runs for their team. The programs and materials the Hall of Fame provides are very useful and the students couldn’t stop talking about it aftewards.
As for your topic, I love it! I recently got to visit “The Friendly Confines” on Memorial Day. I know it’s near and dear to your heart. 🙂
Your example is right on with what many kids are doing and a perfect example of that Passion-based learning that you are talking about. I agree with Susan M. above, take your time and keep adding value to your blog by giving these examples. Right on!
Mike Waiksnis says
Interesting what a little passion can do for a learner. I just wrote a blog entry comapring baseball and education.
Greg Wilborn says
That was so refreshing in the midst of this exciting but overwhelming Colorado TIE conference. Thanks for your presentations here and for the great lesson ideas.
My daughter has been experimenting with flickr and just pointed me to
One of the options is a trading card generator – perfect for a read/write web father and son (and think of the variations: MVP family members, teachers, LIBRARIANS!)
Jeff Bohrer says
Sorry for fading out when I was listening to you keynote today’s Desire2Learn conference. I could relate to this article on so many levels…my 7 year old son also just got passionate about bb cards, stats, players, etc.
I’m debating with myself over when to introduce him to fantasy baseball. What a learning opportunity: player research, stats analysis, budget management…I know he could handle the intellectual part of it all because of his underlying passion for the sport. (I’m just concerned about how many questions he’ll ask me…like Dad, who’s faster: Derek Jeter or Torii Hunter?).
Thanks for this post!