Thursday, March 5, 2015

What's a Fellow?

My oldest learned all about snakes at co-op last week and he has spent a fair amount of time sharing little tidbits he picked up in class.  His favorite fact is about a coral snake.  These snakes are found in Florida and they are poisonous.  There is another snake, however, that is not venomous but is colored almost exactly like a coral snake in attempt to scare away predators.  A scarlet king snake.  Who wants to eat a venomous snake, right?  In order to teach them how to tell the difference between the poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, the teacher taught them a simple rhyme.  "Red against yellow will kill a fellow.  Red touching black is safe for Jack."  My oldest was working to teach this rhyme to his younger brother while they watched my husband play softball.

"Drew!  You HAVE to learn this!  It could save your LIFE!" he said emphatically.  "Okay.  Red against yellow will kill a fellow.  Okay.  Say it back to me."

"What's a fellow?"

"DREW!  You HAVE to say it!"

"But what's a fellow?"

"Well..." my oldest said thoughtfully, understanding that this would be the only way to get through this lesson.  "A fellow is anyone.  Anyone could be a fellow."

"Oh...Am I a fellow?"

"Yes.  Well, actually no.  You have to be five to be a fellow.  So Drew, you are three.  So in two years you will be a fellow.  Got it?"

"Got it."

And that was the end of that.  Drew couldn't focus on learning the rhyme until he understood the vocabulary within it.  Aside from the silliness of my oldest's explanation (I'm still laughing about it), I have thought about how often this happens to me as I teach them.  I will have a point I want to get across to them.  I will feel married to it, committed to teaching them that specific information.  And yet, they may get interested in something that is a complete off-shoot of the original topic.  I am always fighting with whether or not to allow the jump to a new topic.  

After exploring the possibilities for awhile, I have come to the conclusion that everything situation is different.  I think there are times when I can fan their curiousity and explore things in depth right then and there.  I think there are other times when I can say, "Great thinking!  Let's write that down so that we can explore that after this lesson."  After all, everything is worth learning about.  Everything. 

How do you handle it when your kids want to jump to another topic in the middle of homework?  Do you see it as your role to teach them focus or curiousity or both?


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