I’m a firm believer in finding answers. I never take “I don’t know” as a response from my students or myself for that matter. When my students ask me a question I don’t know the answer to I look it up, usually right then and there. I’ve come to love the Internet for its vast expanse of knowledge. It frustrates me when I can’t find what I’m looking for but having spent thousands of hours doing web research for school or just myself I know that most if it’s out there.
And I’m a firm believer in giving good answers to kids, too. A friend of mine recently commented on a commercial, I think for McDonalds, where a parent was giving their child a bizarre and blatantly wrong, totally off the wall explanation of where food comes from. Why is the real answer so difficult to explain to kids? (“It grows on a farm.” Yeah, now that’s a difficult thing to grasp… come to think of it, McDonalds food probably does require a longer and more complex answer since it’s not actual food) Doesn’t it take a lot more energy to make up a stupid response than it does just to give the right one? And for goodness sake, with the Internet at our fingertips, literally attached to most of us (in the form of a phone) at all times, if we don’t know the answer why on earth can’t we look it up?
So the other day, Andrew asked me where the sun went at night. Immediately I thought about the answer most kids would get– “the sun is sleeping”. But then what happens in preschool when the topic comes up again and all of the sudden the whole “sleeping” thing is proven to be what it is– a load of crap. So I thought about it for a second and I told him that the sun was giving light to the other side of the earth. He repeated me verbatim with a very inquisitive tone in his voice. And the teacher in me couldn’t resist the urge to elaborate.
“Yes Andrew, the sun is very very far away in outer space.”
“Oh, outer space, yes! That’s where rockets go! 5, 4,3,2,1 BLAST OFF!!” (I have no idea where he learned this but he did have a concept of space)
“The sun is very big too, it just looks little because it’s so far away.”
“Do you know what else is in space? The moon and stars and comets and other planets.”
Now, I realize he didn’t fully understand all this but it opened a whole dialogue that would be completely lost with a vague and ridiculous answer. He must have been thinking about it too because he asked me about it again today since it was raining. This time though, I asked him why he couldn’t see the sun and he thought about it for a little while and then answered, “because the clouds are hiding it.” I didn’t explicitly tell him this in the other conversation but he figured it out. It’s moments like that that make me so proud to be his mom and make me wonder why anyone would think the wrong answer would serve a better purpose. Maybe that’s why kids in this country are so lacking in science skills.
Funny thing is that I know my few readers will agree with me here, and the people who maybe should read this and give it a little thought won’t (because I don’t know those people) but in general I think we can all do a little better about giving our kids the accurate answers to things. They really do understand a lot more than we give them credit for.