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To help my child understand that if you rock climb, gravity is the one rule in existence?
I ask this question with a hint of sarcasm, but in a context of not knowing how I will help my boy learn something that I a) never learned myself, or b) know nothing about or don't have a grasp of the subject. Or am I missing the point that he will pick up what ever he picks up? I mean, how much facilitation of learning do I do... Or do I just provide the opportunities and he does the rest?
He will be, as humans naturally are, a scientist. He's been doing it since he was born. He will discover patterns in what goes on around him. He will try things. He will draw conclusions. He will compare what continues to happen with his conclusions. He will revise his conclusions.
His understanding will be different from kids in school. Theirs will be abstract, memorized conclusions other people discovered with no guarantee they understand what's beneath the conclusions or how they apply to real life. His conclusions will be built from personal experience. It will be the difference between memorizing the Wikipedia page on Venice and spending several months exploring Venice, talking to people, trying things. While the memorizer might test better -- especially since the test would be based on what he was supposed to memorize from Wikipedia -- who would you rather took you on a tour around Venice?
Someone said in my college physics class that boys grasped the formal explanations of physics quicker than girls because they'd spent their lives playing with and being the ball. They arrived intuitively equipped with a grasp of physics. And their understanding
But he can't draw conclusions from his experience if he doesn't have experiences. So your part is to create a learningful atmosphere. Keep the environment swirling with things that might interest him. Make it easy for him to explore what already interests him. And above all, be interested yourself. Cultivate a fascination with life. Not in the false "Oh, this is so much fun!" way to try to get him interested in something you believe he needs. Be genuinely interested.
A lot of the time, I don't help my kids learn - certainly not the big things which light them up the most. I'm more of a resource coordinator and procurer - I help my kids get what they need to pursue the avenues which interest them.
I can't stay up on a skateboard unless it's perfectly still... and I don't blink. Ray can carve (the thing where you skate sideways around the inside of, essentially, a dry swimming pool). He can do impossible, amazing, dangerous things. He didn't learn any of them from me or his dad or his bio mom or any of her boyfriends. He learned by watching other people skate and eventually asking them to show him moves. That's how he learns. Most of the resources we (parents) help him find are other people who can do what he wants to do. Currently, we're working on getting him a short internship with an artisan-blacksmith, as that's his big interest these days.
Mo's not a people person. She'd rather figure something out on her own, or from a book, or by watching - but not asking. She doesn't like to be told, and often not shown, either, although she'll follow along with someone and copy what they do (leaning on a truck rather than talking across a table, if you see what I mean). So resources for Mo are how to and how-it-works books and movies, kits, and inspiration. A lot of her inspiration comes from comics and animation, so I make sure she gets to see a lot of that, as well as other kinds of art when she's interested.
It's not uncommon for my kids to have interests I know little about, especially at first. I learn by doing a little basic research (Wikipedia is a good place to start) so that I can ask my kids meaningful questions and understand their answers. And I watch and listen to my kids without (here's the hard part) rolling my eyes or turning up my nose when what interests them is slapstick comedy or ollies. I've learned about things I didn't know I'd ever be interested in that way - unschooling expands your mind in ways you can't imagine until you've been there.