Keeping the cart behind the horse
A question from Jess:
Your blog has answered lots of questions, but I definitely will have more … for example, my daughter absolutely loves rock collecting. Should I not mention the Museum of Natural History that has a rock collection?
If your goal is to have your child experience the entire arc of learning, from initial interest to knowing enough to teach someone else, they need adequate time to explore outward from that beginning point.
Your mind will leap ahead to great possibilities, like visiting the museum. Write them down in your journal. But keep them to yourself for now.
Imagine if your child was deeply engaged in making a house from a cardboard box, working intently. You come in the room and watch a moment, then say “You should do this for the stairs … you could use that magazine to cut out rugs and pictures … those spools would make good furniture …”
Depending on the child, and the day, your suggestions might be well received and inspire them further — or, you might kill their interest altogether. In any case, whose project is it?
As you build a strong, trusted learning relationship with your child, they need to know that you will support them and get them whatever they need but you won’t take over. They will remain in control.
Anything that you do for them takes away their opportunity to do it for themselves — including having ideas and making connections. Of course you are going to make those connections quickly; of course you are going to have wonderful ideas! Save them, and later, if they never come up in any other way, you can introduce them. But give your child the chance to make their way there on their own — possibly much more slowly, or via a circuitous path. Slow learning.
Another analogy — when your three-year-old is hunting for Easter eggs, you don’t want to point out each and every egg. They would hate that. On the other hand, if they are looking too hard and long and making no progress, becoming frustrated and upset in the process, a little hint or a bit of subtle redirection can get them back on the right path and happily working again. There’s a delicate balance to this, and it’s a learned skill. Try to always err on the side of doing less; you can always do more later.
Your goal here is for your child to work independently and have their own ideas. Of course, you could plan a fun unit study, but that’s not what we’re doing. We’re planning along, not planning ahead. We’re seeing what form our child’s work takes over an extended period of time, allowing it to take its own shape without imposing our preconceived ideas.
Rather than making direct suggestions about places you could visit, back it up a step or two or three and ask “What kinds of places might teach us more about rocks? Where could we go? Who could we talk to?” Write down every idea your child has and start following them up one by one. It’s entirely possible that along the way, she will stumble across the museum on her own or gather that suggestion from someone else, making it her discovery. The more they own their work, the more they will learn and the more pleasure and pride they will take in it.