Circle Times

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leaving Room for Wonder

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
Rachel Carson

Many of us are intentional about giving our kids time in nature, giving them open space and time to dig, or taking nature walks together with them. I've always enjoyed the idea of the nature walk, but, to be honest, I've often felt inadequate when I did not know the names of every tree and bird so that I could share them with my son when he asked. I often found myself running to the computer to Google new creatures or leaves we'd find to bridge this deficit in my nature knowledge.

Over vacation, we had the pleasure of spending an evening on the beach with a good friend who is a marine biologist. My son gravitates to him and his shared excitement over all things nature! As I was following along, I was astonished at the depth of thought my 4 year old was giving to a sprig of seaweed. I listened as they were asking questions together and exploring all the functions of the leaves and the little ocean creatures who used the seaweed as shelter. My son was fascinated, full of wonder, thrilling in details of creation that many of us will never take time to notice. But I noticed, our friend, the biologist, was spending very little time labeling or explaining things. Instead, he was simply asking questions.

When he explained to me what he was doing, I realized again, even in teaching our kids, simpler is still better. He said, "Parents think they need to know the names of plants and animals in order to teach their kids about them, but it just isn't so. Too often, when we find out the name of plant or creature, we feel we have it all figured it out, and we give no more thought to it." He went on to explain, what really engages kids in nature and what fills them with more respect for it is to simply ask them questions..."See that bird over there? Why do you think that bird is here and not somewhere else? Why do you think his beak is shaped that way?" Simple questions like this are what had taken my son to a very deep understanding of and admiration for a chunk of seaweed. Simple questions like this proved to be far more effective in developing his scientific thinking than my old method of running to the internet to look something up and name it, trying to answer all my son's questions.

This idea resonated very much with me and with what I feel is central to the Simplicity Parenting movement - that we really can "do" less as parents, and our kids can flourish in the open space that is left for them. We can back off, even in our endeavors to inform, and leave room for our kids to make their own discoveries - Because sometimes true education and depth of thought comes from something as simple as the willingness to question and an openness to wonder.

Here's to many, more simple, wonder-filled nature walks!

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