Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Things We Most Want To Know

"Hey, Teacher Tom! Guess what? I can whistle!"

I remember arriving at that milestone myself. I was older, nearly in first grade. I'd been able to make a whistling sound between my teeth for some time, but everyone knows that it's not really whistling until you can pucker up and blow.

"Hey, Teacher Tom! Look! I'm pumping!"

Figuring out the forward and backward rhythm of swinging is another of the timeless achievements of childhood. We might claim, before figuring it out, that we are swinging by ourselves while enjoying the ever-slowing momentum of a push, but it isn't until we can make ourselves go higher and higher that we're really swinging.

"Hey, Teacher Tom! I can snap my fingers!"

"Hey, Teacher Tom! I can make a bubble!"

"Hey, Teacher Tom! I rode my bike!"

"Hey, Teacher Tom! I climbed this tree!"

These are the important things for kids to accomplish this summer, all of which are the sorts of things that children, for the most part, teach themselves when left with plenty of unstructured time in which to perform their own experiments. Not only were these important milestones for me, but for my parents as well, and theirs before them. I recall all of them vividly, far more so than those other achievements, the ones where adults set hoops before me through which to jump.

Last night parent educator Katie Becker lead a year-end meeting of the parents of our 3's class in which she left them with two main messages for summertime: allow your children plenty of unstructured time, preferably outdoors, and, perhaps even more importantly, let them get bored, because more often than not, it's within the vacuum of our boredom that we are most free to teach ourselves the things we most want to know.

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