When we would stop to look at the animals, I would read the sign with all the information on that animal out loud, and then ask my daughter questions- what do you think this animal eats, what is its habitat like, etc.
I was quite proud of myself, frankly. We were very new to homeschooling, and here I thought I was doing a great job of providing an educational opportunity that was fun, and getting her to think become engaged by asking her questions instead of simply reading the sign and moving on.
It wasn’t long before, instead of answering the question I had posed, my daughter heaved a big sigh, looked at me very crossly, and said, “Mommy, do we have to learn something EVERY time we stop to look at an animal?
I was taken aback. Okay, I admit it, I was more than taken aback, I was kind of crushed. Way to damage my pride! So I shut my mouth and sulked while she skipped around and checked out the animals.
But when I had a chance to reflect on it later, I realized that I had, frankly, been ruining her fun. I made a mistake that I think is pretty common for first time homeschoolers. I had read a lot about how “any activity can be a learning opportunity!” and took it a little too much to heart. Yes, any activity can be a learning opportunity, but that doesn’t mean that everything is a teaching opportunity. Our children don’t need or want us hovering over them spouting out facts and asking “thought-provoking” questions every time they talk a walk or find a cool bug. Sometimes they need to be allowed the freedom to just observe unfettered; it’s amazing how much they can soak up when you think they’re just playing around.
This was one of my first big homeschooling lessons. It’s certainly not one I’ve perfected, but I do try to be more mindful of when I need to step back, shut my mouth, and let my children observe and have fun on their own.
Katie lives in Indiana with her husband and three daughters and blogs with shocking irregularity at Just Another Catholic Mom.