education

The Treasure of Experience

It seems to me, we have packaged up and bubble wrapped the world. I remember hours spent outdoors, playing in a wooded area near our house, splashing in an old creek and playing with the tubifex worms which lived there. Since these can be a sign of extreme pollution, it probably wasn’t a creek we should have been playing in. There are real concerns with turning a child out until the street lights come on, but there is a cost to that measure of safety as well.

I tend to plan experiences for my children which meet my educational objectives and do not always appreciate the time they spend on their own. Last week, we learned about emus. We read about them, listened to a song about them and watched some video of them. We’ve watched the emu at the zoo pace along the fence, occasionally bellowing out her call that is more felt than heard. We know about emus.

fox kitWe don’t know as much about fox kits, however. We haven’t studied them, haven’t seen too many shows about them and there aren’t any at the zoo. But last summer, we watched three kits emerge from a den along the side of the road. They were small, a bit awkward and curious. Having lived all their lives along the side of the road, they were not the least bit concerned about the traffic. The blaring of the train horn did not phase them. Rolling down my window did.

It was only a moment. But my children were captivated. All of their senses were activated, including that one sense that cannot be activated according to plan: the sense of wonder. Every time we drove by, they would strain against their seat belts to try to catch another glimpse. We wondered where the parents were, and whether they ever ambled through our yard. We don’t know much about fox kits, but we know them. They grew up near us.

There is a subtle but important difference between knowing about a thing and knowing a thing. Knowing about it relies on facts and perhaps some objective analysis. It happens in the brain and is distant and removed from the self.

To know a thing, on the other hand, invokes the senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch work together to introduce you to the subject. It is deeply personal.

I cannot create such experiences in my children. They are about as easy to plan as those “teachable moments.” But I can learn to recognize their importance and place appropriate value on them when they occur. While a good homeschool mom might have taken more advantage of our experience with the fox kits to study more about them, I also know that there was value in that moment that cannot be replaced by an encyclopedia of information about foxes.

And I look forward to seeing their impressions of Cinnabar when we get to reading that later in the year.

To Know a Thing
by Eleanore Kosydar

look closely:
what do you see?

green fronds unfolding,
the way they curl? do you hear
the green unfolding? see sun vibrate
in greenness, Van Gogh vibrations unfurl?

We know a thing best by loving it:

Tiny worlds framed in dew drops; sunlight
refracted by rain…tender new ferns
coiling sweetly; echoes of dawn
in shiny droplets of dew.

Look closer.
What do you see?

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