Normally I don’t teach anything to my daughter unless she specifically asks me about something. This is inline with our belief that kids learn best when they are curious themselves, rather than explaining something that we want them to learn. All part of the whole unschooling journey that we are going through. However, from time to time I make some exceptions. One such exception happened recently where I had to teach something to my kid without her asking me because I could not stop myself :). Guilty as charged! But let me explain.
I don’t remember when I learned Roman numerals in school. It is such a natural things now for us to be able to look at Roman numbers and be able to tell the Arabic numeral equivalents. But for a kid who has never been to school, these numbers present themselves as interesting drawings at best. My daughter got a taste of it when I was doing my taxes and some of the numbers in the tax forms are in Roman numerals. She was watching me do my taxes and then asked me what those weird words were. Well, for her they look like words because “xiv” is not 14 for her but a 3-letter english word that sounds like ziv.
I told her that they were Roman numbers. They are like the numbers she knows but written differently. At that point she was happy with the information and went about her merry way. Normally, this is where I end the discussion until she has further questions. But this time I could not control my enthusiasm to explain further :). So I said, “today I will teach you Roman numbers”. There, I went out of syllabus on unschooling.
She was neither excited nor disinterested. She just said “ok”. So I proceeded to explain the numbers on a piece of paper. As I was writing the numbers she was able to guess how the next number might look like. Then she tells me she has seen these numbers on the airport clock and her mom explained some numbers. Well, that made my teaching easy. We went on writing some random numbers and then I forgot how 500 is written in Roman numbers. Google to rescue. I completely forgot about D.
Later she observed that Roman numbers need a lot more letters to represent a number in some cases. For example the number 8 needs 4 letters in Roman numerical. So we had some fun writing 888 in roman numbers. Now in real life she probably never has to handle such large numbers in Roman numbers, but it will be good to know at least that those are numbers and not some english words. For everything else we have Google.
Controlling the urge to educate
My daughter reads The diary of a wimpy kid series. In one of the books there is a mention of a test in school where the character of the book needs to answer the sum of angles in a triangle and quadrilateral. My daughter just read through the sentence but never asked what a quadrilateral is or what is the sum of the angles. In this case I shut my mouth and did not interfere.
I had a strong urge to explain to her what a quadrilateral is and what angles mean. But I let it go. I want her to be curious and want to know. So at least I do the right thing (according to the unschooling school of thought) once in a while. I just have to wait for the time to come when she is ready to learn. Sometimes we as adults cannot resist sharing our knowledge, but whether the kid is ready to learn is something we have to be conscious of. Hopefully, someday, I will improve.