I think I just had one of those "teachable moments" the Montessori books are always talking about.
Earlier this evening, GG and I were enjoying some quiet, wind-down time listening to classical music after a gourmet dinner. Oh okay, you got me - we were watching T.V. after eating cereal for dinner (in my defence, we did have a lovely, healthy cauliflower soup for lunch)!
An ad came on the telly, advertising a European cruise company and showing iconic shots of castles, mountains, etc. Hannah noticed a particular scene looked pretty, and said she would like to visit that castle.
"Mmmm, it looks pretty, doesn't it honey?" I murmured non-commitally.
"You take me there one day Mummy?"
"Well, I'd love to honey, but it's a veeeeery long way, way away."
A discussion followed about how far it was, and I used a comparison of when we flew to Melbourne it took two hours in the plane, but to fly to Europe would take a whole day in a plane. I could see the concept didn't really take, and was ready to just change to subject and leave it, but GG kept asking questions relating to it, and I tried to think of ways to explain the scope of the world to a 3-year old.
In a burst of inspiration, I grabbed the (always handy) laptop, and pulled up a nice, colourful world map.
We then spent an amazing hour, exploring the world via Google images. I started off by showing her the Gold Coast, where we live, and tracked the mouse up to Brisbane, where we drove recently. I then showed her where Melbourne was, and reminded her how we travelled there by plane a year ago, and how long it took.
Then I showed her where various friends and family live or have sent her postcards from: Canada, Croatia, Italy, Bermuda, India, New Zealand, Germany. Her expression was priceless as she sat there on the couch, wide-eyed and contemplating the size of the world, and all the different countries. I explained that she would learn all this in school, but I could show her a bit for now and see what she thought. I've never seen her pay such rapt attention. She was fascinated, and asking questions about everything. She then herself started pointing at countries and asking about them: Russia, China, Indonesia, Africa, Brazil. Once I showed her each place on the map, I pulled up some images of iconic landmarks, the people, whatever came up. We saw carnivale outfits from Brazil, German castles, African kids tending their goats, Indian women in saris, the Canadian Rockies, Italian churches. I loved it, and I loved watching GG love it.
I'm not sure how much of it she absorbed, if any, but she was truly interested, and talking about the buildings and people she saw. Especially when she noticed that the African kids all had dark skin. She asked me why and I told her.
"Well, everybody has different coloured skin, see how mine is darker than yours? I bet you couldn't find one person with skin the exact same colour as yours. Well, people who live in Africa, their skin is all different shades too, but it tends to be darker, quite dark."
"But why is it dark?"
"Umm, well Africa is a very hot country, with lots of strong sun, and their dark skin protects them from getting burned by the sun."
What she definitely did absorb was that it's fascinating to learn new things, and that there is a whole, massive world of information out there, and it's at our fingertips.
I want to instill a love of learning in GG, a curiosity about why, what, how and a thirst for knowledge. It seems we're on the right track, her natural curiosity is only getting stronger and I need to be mindful of that, and make myself available to answer her questions, incessant as they may be!
I don't think we can just wait until our kids hit school age, then just turn them over to the teachers and hope everything goes well. We have been teaching them from the day they were born, and I think we should continue to do so, all the rest of their lives. Yes, schooling is important, and I'm certainly not the person to go to with your algebra equations, but parents need to encourage a desire to learn, and show how enriching it can be. I can still remember my Mum replying to me questioning the importance and relevance of a particular subject (it may or may not have been algebra), "The important part of school isn't exactly what you learn; it's that you learn how to learn."
We also need to remind them to be questioning, and examine the motivations behind the messages they receive. This is especially important as they get older and are hit by media and advertising more and more. Is that ad for Coke showing because they care about your happiness this summer, or because they want to sell more product?
These will definitely be the lessons I'll be teaching GG.