Learning Hooks and Summit Reaches

I can hear you now, “What in the world are learning hooks? And summit reaches? I thought this was a book blog!”

learning hooks
“Hush, little one. And Clopin will tell you!”

The reading of Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution continues. I realized something this morning as I struggled through the text. I felt like I was reading random words strung together. Why? Because Trotsky assumes a lot of information is already known. Or maybe he’s writing about what he thinks is the most important. It reads like a list of chess moves.

This book isn’t for those just getting started on studying this era, but since I have some background knowledge, I’m going to keep reading. Occasionally, I get a glimpse of something I already know something about, so I can place the time and situation, add that information to my mental database, and learn something.

Wow…hold on a second. It’s the learning hooks thing again. If had no prior knowledge of the era, I’d having nothing to hang this highly technical and political information on. Humans learn best from narrative, stories of a more personal nature. We can add technical information on top of our existing storyline, but if we don’t have one, those details just drop to the floor and disappear. It’s something my son and were talking about on our hike yesterday.

Books and movies I’ve read and seen in the past have built a foundation for this new stuff. Stories about hardship in Russia, the culture, peasantry and serfdom, Tsars and wars, all give me the reasons behind the chess moves that Trotsky is showing me.

All a bunch of words to say, I’m a tad lost while I’m reading. I’d even go so far as to say I’m bored, but little sparks I get from time to time are encouraging me to keep going. Today, I got the picture that Russia, at the turn of the 20th century, didn’t have the larger shopkeeper, business, and landowner classes that Europe had. It had peasants and aristocrats. Once industrialism came, the peasants’ children, unable to make money at farming, moved to the cities for work. The start of the war increased this tremendously and caused major discontent. Trotsky believes this is why the socialist movement took off so quickly in Russia, and probably why it all descended into chaos and was taken over by Stalin. There was no large class of moneyed land and business owners stabilizing things with, “Hey now…let’s not be too hasty. I have interests to attend to as well.”

So…time not wasted reading, right?

Remember that hike I mentioned earlier? My youngest son had the day off and called ME to go hiking with him (insert honored mom smile here), so we met at a new (to us) park between us and tested it out. It’s called Bernardo Mount Summit; in case you’d like to check it out. We’re both terrible about choosing unknown locations. There are so many things that can go wrong. Will there be a bathroom? Parking? Will it suck? Will I feel like I wasted my day off? Yes, we’re overthinkers. That’s the danger of using your brain…it can take over the situation and ruin it.

This day was not ruined, not even a little. The park we chose was perfect, one I have been driving by for years thinking, “You know, that looks like a cool place.” But I never found occasion to stop and check it out.

For some strange reason, every time it’s just me and my youngest on a trail, we end up climbing to the top of a mountain. He sees “summit” and beelines, and I follow along behind. I always feel like a badass at the end. My sons are both great at that. They never make me feel like I’m old and feeble. They think I can do anything! The feeling is mutual.

There was great conversation, hilarious jokes, we attempted to entertain others and share the love along the way, we communed with nature and its small creatures, and no one died. We’ll be going back, and in greater number, because there are miles of more trail to explore there. It was good times, but today I will be resting…all day. Good thing I have this fat book to read. More coffee, my good sir!


  1. This one does not tempt me in the least… However, do enjoy!
    As for the hike, that is fantastic. I think I’d fall off my chair if my son asked me to hike with him.
    Last time we hiked it was the two families (my sister’s and mine) – all nine of us and our three dogs climbed Mount Washington. I’m sure if I suggested something of that ilk, he’d be in… maybe even the other one would, too 😉

    • Never hurts to ask! For us, it’s a thing we do. We have code:
      “Let’s go hiking” means I need time with you.
      “Coffee?” means I need time with you.
      “Tacos!” mean I’m hungry. Feed me!

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