Watching children learn is like watching magic happen. Eyes light up and turn round, smiles peak from behind temporary worried pouts and the lightness in the air is as perceivable as the smell of muffins we bake at night every now and then.
Math is not a challenge but a balancing and observation exercise, a tool you use to measure the world and decipher the wonder of it. In truth, it can be abstract too, but that comes after you’re so enticed with having learned the first steps that you want to keep on going to see more and connect more dots. You have to render your mind elastic, you have to trust that it will.
Brains are poised to learn if only we’d stop saying ‘I can’t.’ It is like building a barrier of sort. Our words become beliefs and with that we build walls that keep us from opening our eyes inward to the magic of learning. A chain is all, with links we keep adding as we go.
Different subjects are like exercises for the mind, they enable nimbleness. Older boy learns of knights and how they carved their place in history, little boy learn of fur trades and we trace paths on the map with our fingers to match the tracks of those who came to the wild country a long time ago.
We learn of values that have kept people alive for thousands of years, we learn of what can compromise values and how no one is immune to temptation lest they make a shield out of understanding that the price in money for values trashed or forgotten is never an accurate equivalent.
Geometry is learning to use your eyes to peel off shapes drawn on paper and see their contour as plump as life would have it. And just like that, you open the door to algebra so that shapes become even more tangible and finding answers becomes a game. Everything is connected. A dance your mind seems to learn just like that. Fluid and purposeful, it’s the dance we’re all meant to learn at our own pace as long as we keep curious.
A few days ago we huddled in the back yard, the four of us, eyes stuck to a disappearing moon. An eclipse is a dance too, is it not? Bright and growing, the moon had us all under a spell. Then again, it was not just then, but on so many other nights when, during a pre-bedtime walk we were startled by the glow peeking from behind a hill.
Magic? Yes. Barely starting to comprehend the vastness of the world we’re part of should become the catalyst for wanting to know more. Children may not be able to say it as such but they know it and show it with every ‘why’ they ask. Not being handed answers for each every time they ask will have them venture on paths unknown.
Learning is building a raft in the back yard, and sewing sails and small pouches for journals that will come to be, and making a swing out of a piece of rope and some scrap wood, and flying high enough to have the butterflies in your tummy clump together not in worry but in discovering the surprise of the impromptu flight. Learning that you can laugh so hard you make the world laugh too.
Learning is why. Why are some black bears white and why does bacteria live everywhere? What does it take for people to understand why animals do what they do, how they see us humans and why are boundaries vital for both humans and animals? What happens when you cross them without knowing enough to be able to do so without leaving marks of destruction?
Midweek caught us chasing the sun in the countryside outside Kamloops for a few hours. We were given fresh rhubarb. Tart and red, straight from the embrace of territorial hornet wasps. ‘Mom, there are at least four and they circle all over, we are not going there!’ Boys declined rhubarb harvesting under such treacherous conditions.
Stalks came home anyway and a few hours later muffins with streaks of red and sour happened in our kitchen. One boy sliced and diced the rhubarb and the other spread coconut oil all over the pan. Sweet smells and mouthfuls of goodness followed. That is part of learning too.
To grow, to harvest, to peel and cook. To eat, to share to eat. Whose piece is bigger? What is greed? Do we all fall prey to it unless we remember there’s bigger rewards in gifting?
Who’s turn to do the dishes? That is learning to. To serve others just like they serve you, to show gratefulness, to know that togetherness is never reason for entitlement, but for humbleness in the face of so much being given to us through the presence of others. To learn to care.