The other day we hung out at a local park with some friends. It featured the fun play structure, as you’d expect, but also delightfully displayed all there is to love about southern California in February. It was gloriously warm, but not too hot. The sprawling green grass of the large park, the shady wooded areas, a gentle breeze to complement the sun’s warmth.

We spent maybe a third of the time actually on the slides and climbing structures. Once we headed out into nature, Eddie and his friend were hooked. They adventured into trees, found sticks and seeds and rocks, played “house” in the shade under a large group of bushes.

As we left, Eddie told me, “Did you know all the sticks in the world come from trees?!”

I nodded and we continued to the car, loaded up, and went on our way. But he came back to that hours, even days later. “Did you know all the sticks in the world come from trees?!”

I keep coming back to it, too. It’s firsthand evidence of what I know to be true: kids are wired to discover. They learn by observing and trying and doing and pretending and overhearing and asking questions and piecing together information. And it’s not just facts they’re discovering, play is how they develop social and emotional skills as well.

This all fits into some pretty big questions we’ve been asking lately. Fast approaching Kindergarten age, and constantly asked if he is in preschool, I started poking around to see what Eddie’s options are. I recognize we’re extremely fortunate to have choices, but there are downsides to having to choose (mainly, the pressure of trying to make the right choice!). Doing even a little research and touring a few local schools has already been time consuming and pressure-inducing.

I have to actively resist the urge to stress about the decisions ahead! Ultimately, kids being the resilient creatures they are, I know Eddie will be fine; he’ll adjust, he’ll grow. The clarifying thing to me as we weigh options, is to look for what will protect and, more than that, foster his love of discovery, his desire and thirst for learning.

I share this, not to contribute to the divisive nature of parents’ education opinions, but because it’s a journey we’re all on with differing values, priorities, circumstances, and kids (for crying out loud!). I love hearing people’s stories of how they arrived at the schooling decision they did. On the one hand, it can be overwhelming, especially when it sounds like a great idea, their reasoning makes sense, and I’m naturally a people pleaser so I tend to read everything as prescriptive advice. On the other hand, I find it fascinating how each family navigates the decision. And it is really rather like navigation, as in sea-faring, stormy seas, long journeys with exciting thrills and boring, day-by-day tasks that add up to the adventure that is learning.

For some it may look more like structures, slides and swings. For others, a free-for-all finding sticks in the woods. The point is letting curiosity flower into discovery, as detailed in this TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher. The goal is a lifetime love of learning.

I’d love to hear your story!

4 thoughts on “Discovery!

  1. Elaine

    I meant STEM. I don’t know how to edit it! Some schools are doing STEAM, which I accidentally wrote above! That include the arts. I still am highly particial to history, sociology, archeology, and languages/linguistics. I fear the human element is in danger of being left out with so much emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math! We’re people with lives, loves, hurts, history and communication.


  2. Janine Rocke

    I think you will make a good decision if you let your heart lead you instead of trying to please other people! You said children “learn by observing and trying and doing and pretending and overhearing and asking questions and piecing together information.” The best education for YOUR children should include opportunities for all of these things in addition to the TIME to reflect upon their experiences. I think Ramsay Musallam would agree! (I heard him speak at ISU at a teacher’s conference!) Best wishes for your family!


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