On a recent visit to an interactive history park near our house, we had a big agenda. There was much to see and do and only so many hours in our day. So, we clipped along at a nice speed. By early afternoon, I thought we just might be able to squeeze everything in.
In this park, there is a recreated 1800s village. We visited the school house, the general store, the doctor’s house, the blacksmith, and several other private residences. At one house, a woman allowed the children to help her bake biscuits. She placed the rounded biscuit dough in a skillet over hot coals in the fire place. Then she placed a lid over it and heaped more coals on top to create an oven effect. We were thrilled to be involved in this old-fashioned baking experience.
Another place we stopped was the woodworking shop. It was cold outside, and the fire was blazing in the shop. It felt good to warm ourselves, smell the sweet and musty wood shavings, and listen to the carpenter working with his simple tools, explaining his project to us.
After a while, I was ready to leave. My five-year-old son was not.
His eyes were intently focused on the carpenter’s hands, not wanting to miss any part of the processes. I recognized the look in my son’s eyes. He was trying to wrap his mind around what was happening and to fully understand it.
He was mesmerized by the sawing and the sanding, and the slow and tedious work. Group after group came to stand and watch the carpenter. One by one, they left to go see other things. Carson wanted to stay.
I started to put my hand on his shoulder and tell him we needed to go too. But then I stopped myself.
So much of life is rushing, hurrying, scurrying. So much of life, even education sometimes, is checking off the boxes. In that moment, I decided to let Carson stay and experience woodworking more deeply and fully, to develop more interest.
It is often hard for me to stop myself from experiencing more things, in order to sit with one thing longer. I want to do it all!
After all, there are always so many interesting things to learn, on a huge variety of topics. I am not always very good about going deeper with just a few subjects. My husband is good about this, always impressing me with his knowledge of the lives of the composers or certain science topics he’s interested in. He knows a lot about these things only because, at some point, he decided to sit still and dig deeper.
He is a good example to me. I thought of him when I allowed Carson to stay at the woodworking bench for a very long time, when I originally had other plans.
True, deep learning is more apt to happen in the moments we choose to stop and stay, rather than rushing on to accomplish the next thing.
Developing deep interest in kids can’t happen on the fly, as we breeze through the day. It requires a willingness to let go of plans and sit with a child for a long time, even when we are not as engaged as he is. It means pausing to allow his curiosity to grow. It means setting aside time to help our kids dig deeper, through real-world experiences, books, online resources, and finding other adults who can further help and inspire them.
In the end, I think helping kids to develop deep interest is better than clipping along, trying to do it all. We can’t teach our kids every single thing in life. That is impossible. No one can do that. But we can teach them to love learning and to dig deeper when they are interested in something. That is the best thing to teach.
I am learning as I am teaching.
Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.