A few days, I told you about our upcoming adjustments. In a way, I had to tell you that news before I wrote this. And, to further introduce this post, if the title were separated from the post, the word understanding could be either a verb or an adjective. If it’s a verb, the title might suggest I’m setting out to offer insight into the nature of children. If it’s an adjective, I’m stating a quality or characteristic of children.
Occasionally, after the job interview was scheduled, and more frequently after I’d had the job interview, Andrea and I had many conversations trying to sort out some of the issues (perhaps plan ahead). And the older kids ask questions as well. Once I had the offer on Friday, the discussions became more concrete. On Monday night, Emma asked, ‘When we moved, would that be an event?’. Andrea asked her to explain,
Emma: Some of us will live in this house and some of us will live in another house.
Andrea: Really? Who’s going to live where?
Emma: Addison is going to live here. Emma & Sarah & Meaghan & Mommy & Daddy are going to live in our new house. And we are going to come back and visit Addison…
She went on to describe in a significant amount of detail the current plan insofar as it had been planned out. And then,
Andrea: How do you know all that?
Emma: I just listened.
You might think that while sitting beside Andrea and listening to this, I was stunned, surprised or amazed. Really, what I was thinking was how much our society, in general, underrates its children. I was a bit surprised because we hadn’t talked to her about any of it yet. And I hadn’t noticed that she was around very often when we were talking about it.
Emma is special to us, of course, as she ought to be. But, we do not believe that she is significantly more intelligent than most children her age. This sort of conversation is not unusual for her. I have 2 or 3 conversations a week with her like that one. Sometimes she talks about planets and outerspace, other times about human biology. In the last week or so, she has been trying to sort out a meaning for the word event. The question she asked before the move one was, “When I was born, was that an event?”
In addition to children’s programming, Emma enjoys watching home renovation shows and shows which show the process of making things (like ‘How’s that made?’ and ‘Unwrapped’). Almost on a daily basis she wants to look at, be read to and discuss adult books on history, biology, nature, picture this books (pictures made from small objects), and exploded diagrams.
With the background of the many conversations I’ve had with her, the conversation I described above prompted me to remember something from my own childhood that has nagged away in the background while always managing to elude me. The readers we had at school intended to teach us to read were boring. And if it weren’t for teaching my own children, I would never have figured out why.
School readers are written within the confines of a vocabulary that children are expected to be able to learn and read and write on a test. And my 5 year old’s conversational vocabulary far exceeds anything I would expect any 5 year old to be able to recognize and remember in print. Nor would I expect that all children have a vocabulary which includes uterus, crankshaft, pendulum, archeology or many other words which have occupied the interests of my children at age 5.
I took a break in writing this to read Emma her bedtime stories for the night. I realized that in my head this was turning into a rant. I didn’t want to do that tonight.