Shock and Awe

by | Jan 28, 2007 | Uncategorized

Ok, I know that everyone thinks their kid is smart, but seriously Audrey is amazing. Every day I’m blown away by something she says or does. She’s not even 2 1/2 and she can not only count to 15, but recognizes the numbers 0-10 on sight. She counts things. She knows the alphabet, of course, and several letters on sight. Her memory and vocabulary are out of this world. She told the tic tacs today that “they were not cooperating,” when she couldn’t get them out of the box! We were driving home the other night and she said matter-of-factly, “there’s the moon. It’s a crescent moon.” It was! She also pointed out to me that the stop sign “was an octagon.” What?!?

A few days ago I picked up a book to read her at bedtime. She told me she wanted to read it and started spouting off the story verbatim. I mean EVERY LITTLE WORD was exactly as it was written on the page in front of me. It wasn’t just a short little book, either. It was the “I’m a Big Sister” book my mom got her when Anna was born – lots of words. As my mouth was open in stunned amazement I seriously looked at her eyes to see if she was reading the words. I know kids this age have sponges for brains, but this is crazy.

Mixed in with parental pride, I’m anxious as all get-out. I know what it’s like to have learning come easily. I didn’t have to work hard for my straight A’s and was really quite bored most of the time in school. After all of those A’s and academic awards, I left my formal eduction not knowing a damn thing. It was so simple for me to learn only at a superficial level because it came so easily. I studied for the tests, aced them, and moved on to the next one. I wasn’t challenged and more importantly, and most regrettably, I didn’t connect to the things I was learning at a deeper level. I think that’s why I always felt somewhat of a sham when I stepped up to receive those academic awards. I feel that void in my life to this day. Dana had an interesting post on her Since Eve blog about the following quote that really got me thinking about all of this:

“Thirdly, its trite “thinking outside the box” moral is insultingly simplistic—before one demonstrates how well one can think outside the box, one ought to demonstrate that one knows what’s actually inside the box. Teaching someone how to think is not remotely the same thing as teaching someone what to think. Mere wit should never be confused with wisdom.”

In my formal education, I was never taught how to think. Sure, I studied geometry, but no one ever encouraged me to wonder how geometry came to be or why it had such an enormous impact on the world. All I was asked to do was to regurgitate a few theorems. No one encouraged me to read the original texts by the authors of those theorems. So, now I’m 30 years old and I certainly don’t remember the theorems and I still don’t have any idea how geometry came to be or why it had such an enormous impact on the world. What a waste of time.

I feel like I’m rambling now, but there’s something really important in all of this that I feel like I need to figure out. I want something different for my kids. I want them to immerse themselves in what interests them and be challenged to think about the whys instead of just the whats. And, I feel like that should start now. Does that make any sense? I want my girls to enjoy learning because it fills them up and makes them feel more whole – like they are connecting to something bigger than themselves. To love the process of learning more than the performance of learning. I know that starts now, with me, and I hope I can do them justice.

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