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© 2019 by Joyce Fetteroll

I don't know enough to answer their questions

The reason I say that is because if my daughter came to me and asked me what a sousaphone was I wouldn't know. I would look it up in the dictionary and read the definition.

 

Sometimes we will know and we can tell them. But we don't need to cast ourselves in the role of encyclopedia.

 

Looking something up is good. By looking it up rather than just handing her the answer, in addition to answering her question, she's seeing how to find answers to questions. Knowing how to find out is more important than having the answers.

 

And even more important than being able to find the answer is being aware and pondering enough to ask the questions in the first place.

 

Because until we did a science experiment on inertia, I did not know what it was. I would never have pointed it out in day to day living.

 

That's okay. There are undoubtedly oodles of things that pass us by that someone else would have pointed out to their child.

 

Again, it's not the answers that are important. It's the questions!

 

Someone said that the reason boys have a big advantage in physics (mechanics) in college is that they've played with this stuff all their lives. Not because someone has pointed inertia out to them. But just from experiencing it. They've bounced, hit and kicked balls, rammed toy cars into each other, jumped off spinning merry go rounds. They've been the ball in the physics book ;-) So when they see the formal explanations they say "Oh, I know that!"

 

I had a tricky time in physics initially because I had no real images to build from, just my false theoretical ideas of how things probably worked.

 

What kids need are experiences and awareness to ask questions. And someone to help them learn how to find the answers and encourage their questioning and exploring.

 

Because when my daughter put one hole in a large can of ketchup I told her she needed to put a second hole in the can to let some air in. I did not know what air pressure had to do with any of that until we poked holes in a 2 liter bottle filled with water and followed the directions for a science experiment (and the book explained it). We both looked at each other and said "the ketchup can."

 

But it's the noticing that's important. If she hadn't had a need to put the hole in the ketchup can in a real life situation, then doing the experiment would have meant very little to her. She wouldn't have seen how air pressure relates to real life. It's likely it would have just been "Oh" and filed away and perhaps forgotten. Were there other experiments you did? Did she have the same "aha" moments with all of them? Or were they treated like, okay that's cool, what's the next one?

 

And as someone said, if your family enjoys experiments, it's okay to mess around with them. Just don't think of the experiments as the learning and everything else as just living. It's the experiences that they can then relate something more formal to (now or in the distant future) that are important.

 

I don't question why things happen the way they do. I can learn about them along with my children and I can begin to ask questions,

 

Maybe make it your goal to everyday look at something you've seen so often you don't see it any more and wonder about it. Where did the materials come from? How did they get from where they were to where it was made? Why was it made this way and not some other way? What did people do before this object was invented? What skills used to be involved? What skills are involved in the new one?

 

What advantage is it for some trees to develop leaves early in the spring? Why do some wait until later in the spring? Who used to live on the land before you did? (You could go way way back to Native Americans and prehistoric creatures or a little back by going to the court house to search through the records of who has bought and sold the house over the years.)

 

But don't even worry about the answers at first. Just get in the habit of asking the questions, pondering possible answers and developing a sense of wonder.

 

but what happens to them in the mean time? Who can show them the world?

 

I think what you're really worried about isn't showing them, it's explaining the world to them. Don't worry about the explanations. Encourage the questions.

 

I think Richard Feynman said that his grandfather told him something to the effect that you could learn all the names of all the birds and still know nothing about the birds. The real learning is in watching one bird, even if you don't know it's name, and seeing what it does. How it behaves, how it interacts with birds and other creatures, how it feeds itself. Someone could decide to rename all the birds and the name memorizer who had looked so smart before would know nothing. But the one who had studied the birds' behavior is the one with the true knowledge of the birds.

 

It doesn't make a difference if your daughter knows inertia. It's important that she experience it. The beauty is you don't even need to know it exists. You just need to slow down and experience and say hey, that's really neat.

 

Yesterday my daughter was blowing dandelions and, though, of course, jaded as I am I was certain there was nothing for me to learn from something so common, she encouraged me to blow and I actually saw them for the first time. How the feathery tufts form a nearly perfect translucent globe, how the seeds attach to the middle, how they look like little tiny parachutes. Someone could probably name all the parts or the physics involved, but that wasn't important. It was observing , actually seeing what was going on and both of us sharing it that was important.

 

(And don't think this is all obvious and easy! I explain things to others so I can understand them. ;-) I'm the one who values memorizing bird names. It's a tough mode of thinking to break out of.)

 

 

If your child has an interest in some topic or has come to you and "wanted to learn to read" where do you go for info? I have been using unit studies for some of the special interests.

 

What types of asking are they doing? Are they asking specific questions that can be found easily (like how do birds fly) or are they saying "I want to know everything there is to know about dinosaurs'"

 

It helps not to think in terms of needing to hand them a package of the essential information and skills. You don't need to make a big production out of whatever interests them. Just answer the question they're asking. You can use Google for quick answers, get some books or videos for interests that are deeper. They'll let you know how deep the interest is.

 

 

Joyfully Rejoycing