Hands-on Learning

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I am an unashamed nerd.

(My husband, looking over my shoulder as I write, claims that he is not a nerd, and is better described as “awesome.” His high school friends would probably go with nerd-jock, though. Oh, and band geek.)

We’re the kind of people who see science and math everywhere in our daily lives. Our kids told us, with poorly disguised ulterior motives, that treats at the school cafeteria cost a quarter. Hubby took this opportunity to teach them about coin values. The first time my daughters helped me weed the yard, we discussed the purpose of the roots at the end of our leafy trespassers before banishing them to the compost pile. I try to respond to questions by showing our daughters the answers, whenever possible, instead of telling them. It often slows us down, though, and M in particular tends to dawdle, so I am learning to curb my love of teachable moments in the interest of getting things done.

Today, I felt awful. I had a headache and, according to my husband, a fever.

The girls needed their bath, though, so I asked them to climb into the cool tub. Now that they’re 5, and capable of climbing in and out of the bath themselves but still bathing together, I’m comfortable with leaving the room while they’re in there. If they were to fall quiet, I’d panic, but that’s not a problem we deal with at our house.

While I retrieved clean uniforms from the laundry, they got increasingly loud. I went in to wash their hair, and caught sight of J pouring water into a washcloth bundled into a pouch in M’s hands. I asked what they were doing, and was told that it was “an experiment.” My headache tempted me to leave it at that, but I asked what they were trying to learn. M told me that they were attempting to catch water. I washed their hair, and debated between rushing them through their bath and providing them a control to their experiment. I decided to go with the latter, and gave M a scrap of plastic wrap from the kitchen. Their glee at successfully containing water in their plastic pouch didn’t help my headache any, but was well worth it. There’s something to be said for keeping alive the wonder that one-year-olds display by chucking sippy cups to the floor time after time. After all, what is a scientist but a very large one-year-old, trying to figure out cause and effect?

I’m glad I took the time to encourage both girls’ curiosity and their partnership in discovery, but I’ll admit to that I’m heading for a long warm bath of my own, now that our daughters are in bed for the night.

When you’re pulled every which way and under the weather, how do you decide between seizing a teachable moment and making it through the day?

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

2 thoughts on “Hands-on Learning”

  1. Nice going! As my kids are in the ‘why’ age I try to encourage them to answer their questions / find solutions before I offer an explanation. Their logic is so refreshing! However, I have to admit that often times I fly through teachable moments and then feel guilty about it later. But I’m comforted by the fact that I will have new opportunities ‘tomorrow’.

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