|This is not what we tried to teach the kids, but it felt like this to me!|
Exhibit #1: As much as I have loved our classical homeschool co-op, I have had the hardest time teaching the science experiments to my class of 1st and 2nd graders. Let's just say that trying to do demonstrations on astrophysics to 6 and 7 year olds is not high on my priority list. I've struggled with science my whole life. I have a lot to learn myself before I can synthesis many words/concepts they'd need to follow along with the experiment (let alone make a hypothesis). Luckily, the point of the demonstrations is not that they "get it" but that they understand the scientific method. A lot of times I have to cling to that fact and know that singing "Purpose, Hypothesis, Materials, Procedure - clap- Results, Conclusion" to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel may be the only successful thing that happens during the 30 minutes of science time. We've done these demonstrations for 7 weeks and have 17 more to go. I have cringed at the thought so many times and said to Justin on multiple occasions, "Why are we trying to teach this stuff to 4 year olds? Both your daughter and wife are not benefiting from something over our heads!" I found out a few days ago that I needed to take the word "daughter" out of that sentence.
One particular experiment we did 4 weeks ago used a pencil, thumb tack, and posterboard strips to demonstrate how we can still see Saturn through its rings because they are made of ice, rocks, space debris, etc. This week as we were headed to bible study my daughter picked up a sweet gum ball she had left in the garage after a walk with Justin. She held it by the stem, started spinning it and said, "Hey look! It's Saturn! I can see through its rings!"
It was then I decided to stop grumbling about the science experiments.
In that moment in the garage, it was very clear to me that what I cared more about was ME looking stupid and not getting it, not my daughter or my students. Assuming that because I can't always teach it well, it's of no value to anyone. I was totally doing what I swore I was going to fight against -- projecting my educational baggage of not doing well with science onto my kids. I want them to be curious and awestruck by the complexity of God's creation; griping about His handiwork won't inspire wonder in my girls.
Exhibit #2: Justin was listening to some podcasts from a Desiring God Conference on C.S. Lewis the other week and suggested that now was the time to start our girls on the Narnia series. We had talked about wanting to do it for a long time, but after a book club meeting, a friend (our parents' age) encouraged us to start now when she saw we had checked all the Narnia books out from the library.
I was a little skeptical because I didn't know if trying to read a British series to a 4 year old would go over well. I didn't want to start something and not be able to finish it because we wanted it so badly for our children and them not want it, too. I didn't grow up in a house where read-alouds were "a thing" and the few times I have been in the presence of read-alouds it just felt constraining. I know this sounds bizarre coming from an English teacher who loved taking Performance of Literature in college and reads to her children every day. However, for our own books, Justin and I both prefer to be "silent" readers. We might read a sentence or paragraph that catches our eye and then discuss the book afterwards. I just wasn't sure if read-alouds were going to be "our thing" now.
Once again my skepticism was proved unnecessary. As we were reading The Magician's Nephew (we decided to do the series chronologically), we'd stop after a page or so and ask our daughter what was going on. We were genuinely surprised when she gave a wonderful 4 year old synopsis! We really thought she might get weighed down by some of the British idioms or some of the longer exposition. In addition, there was a lot of wiggling, so we didn't know if she was actually taking in anything or just wanted to amuse herself by having us reading to each other! Since we started, she's been telling strangers about Polly and Digory and has asked to read more about them at several bedtimes.
All this to say, I do not think that making science connections and being able to synthesis information is a particular trait for my 4 year old. Kids are capable of so much more than we often give them credit for. For all of us who chafe at the unfamiliar and see the big picture (while having a hard time seeing how the details add up to it), we need to take a step back and a deep breath.
God uses the mouths of babes to humble us and slow us down. Our children point out how much we can overanalyze things for them when, in a lot of ways, their needs are very simple.