Mariana Trench

(by Sylvia Lee)

K = Kieran
M = Me aka Mom

K: Mom, how long is 2,550km ?

M: 2,550km? Er… okay, from our home to here is about 30km… hang on…

I whipped out my phone calculator & punched in the numbers with a running commentary.

M: 2550 divided by 30… equals 85.
So, you know how far we are from home now, right ? It’s 85 times that.

K: Oh that’s really really deep!”

Ding! Ding! Ding!
I received a “Teaching Opportunity Alert” from my conditioned mind.
I randomly picked up a piece of paper & a pencil stub that were already on the table between us & thought “This is the perfect opportunity to “do” some maths!”

M: Suppose this pencil is the distance from our home to here, and this side of the paper is 2550km, if I want to find out how many times….

K: Alright, thanks Mom!

And, off he went.

“Did he really know how far 85 times the distance from our home to here is?”
“Did he understood why I divided 2550 by 30?”
“Would he know how to get that answer by himself next time?”

All these questions popped up in my head on auto-pilot. I just sat & observed them as they came, smiled at them, and laughed at myself as I invited them to go. I reminded myself silently that these were what I wanted him to know, what I thought he should know, and what I thought were important for him to know. But not to him, at least not this instant. These were not the reasons why he asked me the original question. Wait, what was his original question again?
Oh yes, how long is 2,550km?
He must had his own reason, whatever that was, in asking that question and obviously he was happy with the answer he received. Another mission failed trying to hi-jack his curiosity into a teaching lesson, and I’m glad it did. Thanks to Kieran, who has been most patient with my slow learning, I am given a new chance everyday.
Seriously, when will I learn?
To be honest, the most challenging part of Child-Directed Learning, for me, is remembering that children take the lead. I’m learning… I’m getting there…

Wait, did he say “deep”?

M: Kieran, did you mean “far” cuz “deep” is …

Two days later…

Kieran & I were sitting opposite each other on the dining table. I was researching vegan banana bread recipes & he was watching something on his iPad & drawing simultaneously, which he enjoys doing everyday.

Kieran looked up from his drawing.
K: Mom, how do you spell Mariana?

M: Marijuana?
(We have researched & talked about Cannabis/Hemp & their uses previously, so the word Marijuana is used openly without bias & judgement in our home.)

K: Mari-Anna, as in a name, not Marijuana Mom.

M: Oh, there are a few ways you can spell it, some people spell it with one R, some with two…

K: Mom, just pick one & spell it ?
(Haha, I’m not being helpful, again.)

M: Okay, M-A-R-I …

K: Okay, got it! Thanks mom! I’m researching Mariana Trench.”

M: Mariana Trench ? I’ve never heard of it. What is it?

K: It’s the deepest part of the ocean. You’ve never heard if it? There are lots of mysterious deep sea creatures & I’m into deep sea creatures now! At 2550km, they found these …

He went on to show me his drawings, told me their names & their specifics. So, this is why he wanted to know how long 2,550km is. He was actually correct to use “deep”.

K: You went to school & you don’t know what the Mariana Trench is?

M: Okay, they didn’t teach me these kind of things back at school, but I learnt how to explain to you how deep 2,550km is.

K: Okay, you have a point there, and now I know how deep 2,550km is too. So, you went to school to learn about things & now you can teach me so I actually don’t need to go to school to learn them.
M: …

My conditioned mind automatically questioned,
“You do? You really know how deep 2,550km is?”
And there was this urge to “test” him to see if he really knew. I took a deep breath & silenced my mind. I reminded myself, again, that this is about him & this is his learning. I need to respect his choices, let him take the lead & trust that he has learnt what he has chosen to learn, for now.
After all, does it really matter that he doesn’t know how deep 2,550km is?
Do I know how deep it actually is myself even though I understood it conceptually on paper? The answer is “No” to both questions and not knowing this actually makes no difference to our lives.

M: So Kieran, what are you watching?
He turned his iPad over to me.

K: Documentary about deep sea creatures by XXX. Do you know him? He’s just like the most awesome guy who does all these awesome videos on these awesome animals…

Ten minutes worth of awesomeness later…

M: Thanks for educating me about these creatures Kieran. I learnt something new today because of you.

K: Yeh, you are welcome mom. Thanks for the two thousand fleeflafla kilomeeteetee thing too…

Right there & then, I understood that the numbers the distance the maths, were of the least interest to him. He was more interested in the, well, interesting stuff like what creatures are down there, how they hunt, what they eat, what they look like, etc. Once I saw things from his perspective, I realised how boring & trivial my attempt to teach him distance was.

K: So mom, what are you doing?
M: Researching vegan banana bread recipes…
K: Yuck! Oh I mean, carry on…

We went back to what we were doing & life went on.

Sylvia has been an unschooling mother of two for 2 years. Then she joined the Sudbury team in HK and practice Sudbury philosophy. She believes her role as a mother is to support her children to become who they truly are.

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