Friday, December 26, 2008

Too Much Information

Sitting at the Teppan Table as our chef poured water on to the hot metal, I saw my son’s eyes grow as big as saucers. THIS, I thought, was a great time to introduce him to steam as the gas form of water. The water being poured was reacting angrily, jumping all over the place. It was a perfect portrayal of the molecules as little cartoonish creatures that were bumping into each other all grumpy-like, as they got hotter and hotter. The Boy thought that was pretty funny, so I kept going, pointing up to the steam rising through the vents as the angry little water molecules floated away. “Woah!!!” I clinked the ice in my Diet Coke and asked him to name the solid form of water that he was already familiar with. “ICE!” The Boy was entertained AND he learned something!

Back to dinner…

In swoops The Pilot to snatch the fun away... “Do you know what it’s called when ice turns right into steam?” No, I plead… it’s too much… he just had fun learning the basics… drop it! But I could see it was too late. His know-it-all grin had taken over his face. “It’s called sublimation.” (At this point, the twinkle in The Boy’s eye is dulling) “That’s when an element or compound transitions from the solid form…” (The Boy is now pleading with me with his eyes to make daddy stop) “…to gas phase with no intermediate liquid stage.”

All The Boy heard was the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher mwa-mwah-mwah-mwaw-ing.

It doesn’t take The Pilot long these days to see that he threw in too much information turning fun into a boring lesson through his need to share all that he knows. It’s an affliction usually left to engineers, but Pilots are special like that. Their personalities are half machine, half ego maniacs and they are compelled to tell you they know what they know or their heads will explode. It’s true! Their heads will come right off if they aren’t boring people with their flying stories or flight engineering knowledge. You can’t prove me wrong because there is not a pilot alive that can’t not talk about flying...

He chuckled at his TMI moment and went back to the ice/water/steam simplicity.

As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to turn everything into a lesson. Our environment plays just as large a role in our learning as our books and computers do. Since we are the teachers, we have the added benefit of knowing what’s most relevant to what they’re currently learning. We can recall a lesson that might be playing itself out in our every day living. Whenever those living lessons show up, I grab hold of some aspect while they are still thrilled with the moment. But when is it too much for them to take in and when do we cross the line to making everything a test rather than just enjoying the moment itself?

It’s a balancing act: keeping kids’ curiosity piqued while not pounding the fun out of life.

YOUR TURN:

Homeschoolers, Teachers, and non-teaching parents: What do you do to keep learning fun while not falling into the TMI Black Hole?

15 comments:

Gwynne/aranarose said...

I'm lucky in that my son wants to know everything. There is no such thing as information overload for that kid.

But I'm pretty laid back in his learning, and very tuned into the possibility that it will become too much information.

I just wish his grandmother were... She's a retired school teacher, and is stuck in the "school is the way to do it" mindset. Ignoring that I pulled him out of school because it wasn't doing it for him... She does have the habit of pushing too hard to make him learn what she thinks he needs to learn.

* TONYA * said...

You are so right. It's such a pilot thing. My hubby does the same thing and my son too looks at me with those 'mum please make him stop' eyes.

I do the same as you, I will show the fun part which will teach him a little, but not go too far as to bore him to tears. However, mine has an inquisitive mind too. He's quite often asking questions about things he doesn't understand. This is when I encourage him to find out more, to research on the internet or in books instead of just giving him an easy answer.

wwstewart said...

I tend to make learning dull, with very few exceptions. I usually will try to point out neat facts though, and my son seems to like it. My daughter, not so much, but she's only four.

For example, today we were learning how to aim a pistol.

Wait, wait...it's an airsoft gun. Heh, you can't shoot a real handgun inside city limits...

ghp2006 said...

One very important point, especially as a young child is involved.

All steam is water vapor, but not all water vapor is steam. What I am getting at here is "steam" is extremely dangerous, whereas water vapor as in your breath on a cold day is not.

U R the experts on "how", but the difference needs to be conveyed to the child

'Nette said...

Once teaching the basics, I would do "child-led" if he wanted to know more. And kitchen experiments are ALWAYS fun, no matter if TMI is involved or not. It seems some kids just learn better by hands-on experience.

I LOVE to learn, and pass that knowledge on, so I am guilty of TMI, but I try to even it up with the experiments.

Shileen said...

Well given that this is my 15th year of homeschooling I can safely say that we have had many many fabulous learning moments and we've had many of those glazed over moments of TMI. I used to make such a big deal about anything that the boys would ask about or express an interest in. I finally learned to just relax. If you think about it, as adults, we have casual interests or just curious moments. It doesn't mean we want to go into a deep study or venture. The kids are the same way.

My oldest is in college. My youngest is in high school. I can read my youngest son's cues pretty well .. finally .. lol. Do we still go overboard once in a while? Yes, but for the most part we are relaxed about his education and try to strew his path with interesting things to peak his interest.

Sugar said...

ghp2006: Thanks for your concern regarding safety. Since we have many hands on experiments, I always make sure that the kids understand that steam can burn since it came to be in that state from being heated and boiling. They definitely understand the difference between that and the "smoke" that comes out of their mouths in the cold air.

Sugar said...

Shileen: Thanks so much for telling me about your experience, especially from the perspective of a mom who has gone through as many years teaching at home. It's a daunting undertaking and lots of work, but so worth it... I hope, haha!

ghp2006 said...

"I always make sure"

2 BIG thumbs up to you, Mom!

Homeschooling Coach said...

I look for the "stare". You know that glazed over look they get when they can't take in anymore information. As long as they don't have that look on their faces, we're usually OK. I also know thing are going well when we are having a good time together!

Rowena said...

Ahh, you had to mention teachers... even if I haven't taught in 5 years, I am compelled, like a pilot, to talk shop.

I always try to start with what they know, like you did with the ice talk. I used to love to do mind mapping/webbing, where the kids shared their current knowledge, and the questions we had and recognize the base they already had in understanding the new concept.

My specialty was integrating the arts into the curriculum. I found that switching the medium that they were learning in or that they were conveying what they had learned also kept the lessons from being tedious. So writing a poem on the subject or creating a collage to show the transformation of ice-water-steam. Of course, the experiments are mighty fun. Watching a movie on a subject or reading a book leads to them creating their own interpretation of the material.
I also found that giving them a choice of the medium they worked in gave them a sense of ownership of the material. So if they could choose 2 of 7 media for their project deliverable, they could explore their unknowns within the comfort zone.

Of course, being an English/Humanities teacher, there was almost always a written component. And the final portfolios needed to have so many essays and so many artistic interpretations and so many creative writing pieces. and so on.

Rowena said...

oh, and the glazing of eyes usually means that they haven't been given the steps in between what they already know/learned and the new material.

Although I do believe in pushing kids just a little farther than they are comfortable with. That's how we learn, often, by being challenged.

Super Nova said...

It's all in their eyes, and I teach High School kids, so they just flat out tell you!


I am back to my blogging ways!!!

Naomi said...

my eyes were glazing over as i read what he was saying. and i almost died when i read the peanuts teacher thing b/c that's exactly what it sounded like as i tried to read the words lol my dad, a chemist, was just like that. you'd ask a question and get five hours of background info w/ no answer in sight.

Sarah said...

I brainwash them at a young age with TMI, that way they think it IS normal and fuN! Googleplex!