The other evening, my husband walked into the living room to find me curled on the couch reading a book. I glanced up to find him laughing. I placed my book on the end table and asked him what he found so amusing.
"You are," he replied, "Always searching for a solution to some one's problems, aren't you?!"
It's true. I was reading a book on marital problems (to see if I should recommend it to a person I know who is having problems). I love searching for and finding solutions to problems.
I wish I had all the answers, and I'm afraid, too often I think I do, when I really don't. If I've learned anything in the ten years that my husband has been a pastor, it's the sad fact that rarely do people want solutions to their problems. They want and desperately need someone to listen to their grievances, but they must find the answer themselves...often through prayer and lots of trial and error.
The same principal applies in teaching my children. I want to tell them the why, when, and how of things. But to really learn something they need me to ask loaded questions that send them searching to find the answer. They need to ponder the issue, experiment, and come to their own conclusions.
I've been reading, "Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children" again. (Love that book, by the way!) He gives some really great examples of replies that help children find their own solutions. Tom's grandfather was an Indian and he explains that when they would ask a question such as, "How do we build a shelter?" He would answer, "Ask the squirrels." or "How does a bow-drill fire work?" he would answer "Rub your hands together." Or, "How can we track foxes better?' he would reply, "Track mice."
"When Grandfather said, "Go ask the mice," we lay on our bellies for months, watching mice, in all sorts of weather. Not only did we learn what mice did when owls were around, but we also learned what mice did when everything else was around. Yet the teachings went far deeper. We learned that nothing could move in nature without affecting everything else."
"All parents would do well to develop a sense of teaching in this way-instead of spoon-feeding answers to children, having them answer their own questions by thinking through patterns of the whole in nature. Each teaching can be made in this way exciting and enjoyable like a mystery just aching to be solved."
So yesterday my children asked me if we could have a picnic at the park. We went and it was so neat to see the things they discovered. Isaac was sailing (sinking) his Lego ship and Becca discovered clam shells. She brought them to me and told me about a live clam she had found with "slimy" stuff oozing out of it. We all went to the creek to see it. (I didn't realize WI had fresh water clams!)
This morning, we watched a bird singing in a tree. Each time he sang, he bobbed his whole body with the notes. The kids laughed hysterically. We are still trying to figure out which bird it was. I thought it was a king bird, but when we looked and listened on-line, we realized it was not. I would love to start searching and then tell them what bird it was... but, I think I'll let them figure it out, this time!