It has been a long time since I’ve picked up a book that I could not put down. Perhaps I should be a bit embarrassed by the fact that I finally relived that pleasure of a book read in a single sitting with a children’s book. Or maybe not. I have always loved quality children’s literature and its ability to express ideas with simplicity. . .and a bit of perspicuity not often found in books aimed at older audiences.
But The Wheel on the School starts off with an intriguing premise made through the insight of a village teacher.
For sometimes when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen.
And the teacher dismisses his small class of six a whole hour early with the promise that they will spend the evening wondering why. All because little Lina wrote an unassigned essay about storks which nest all around her small village but not in it.
And I’m not sure which I found more delightful: an afternoon off school in order to wonder or indignant little Lina the following morning.
“Why, Teacher, they never did [wonder]! They went ditch jumping.”
As if wonder only happened while sitting quietly on the dike and trying to wonder. But an unanswered question is a curious thing and once it captivates your imagination, it does not let go so easily.
Imagine if we had more teachers like this one, ready to set aside arithmetic for an unassigned essay and let out school to simply wonder why. I had an instructor in college who said it was her job as a public educator to stamp out creativity wherever it reared its ugly head. She was part of a system whose greatest achievement was that it educated children until their favorite question was no longer “Why” but “Will this be on the test?”
Whether or not something will be on a test is the last question on my children’s minds. But they certainly ask why. Again and again. Sometimes I answer and sometimes I don’t, but at the end of the day I find I have to remind myself that asking why is the beginning of learning. So while making dinner when I’m again asked to explain the color of the sky or why my daughter is not a bird, I try not to send the little explorers away. Instead I answer,
Hmmm. . . I wonder. Why do you think?
And sometimes the answers can be quite intriguing.