Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Teaching Children the Gift of Not Knowing
The world manifests itself in majestic displays of colors and complex patterns. Creatures that compete with scenes found in the depths of our wildest imaginations already known and yet to be discovered creep, slither and swim through the realms of earth and sky.
Even the most simplest of displays, a leaf in a child's outstretched hand, holds within it amazing wonders in terms of what lies deep within on a microcosmic molecular level.
Reality itself is a complex web of factors constantly interacting with one another and it is a marvel to behold. Oftentimes, our children can come to us with questions in regards to how things work and why things are the way they are. As parents, we wish to give them the answers they seek. Sometimes it's difficult as a parent to concede to not knowing the answers to our children's most pressing questions. We feel as if we should. Many of us, instead of admitting to not knowing the answer, will make up overly simplistic responses in order to momentarily assuage their curiosities and redirect them towards other pursuits that don't challenge our sense of comfort. This approach, however, does not give them the actual answers and hinders the cultivation of critical thinking which our world so desperately needs its inhabitants to develop in order to solve the many problems it faces.
As I've wrestled with my own questions lately I have realized that admitting to myself that I don't know the answer to something does not produce within me the sense of self-defeat but rather it elicits a sense of liberation and hope that further intensifies my curiosity and intrigue. It also magnifies my appreciation of the infinite mysteries reality has to offer us.
There's a sense of freedom in not knowing all the answers to life's questions. Freedom because by admitting we don't know something we are refusing to be bound by artificial answers which create the false illusion of knowing that keeps us confined within our own self-made prisons of ignorance. By admitting that we don't know an answer we create the space in which we are given the freedom to earnestly seek for it and the hope of actually one day finding it.
My children, like most, are full of questions and one of our favorite activities lately is to have them nestle beside me in bed, laptop before us. I beckon them to ask anything that they have been wondering about and assure them that we will try to find out the answers together. We've had lots of fun together and this pursuit has proven to be one of mutual discovery for all involved. Even when I do know the answers to questions posed, by looking deeper into the subjects at hand with them I have found my own understanding of such subjects broadening.
I have been teaching my children that there are things that are simply not discovered yet, answers that aren't known, and that that is okay and actually a very exciting thing. If we knew everything there was to life there would be no mysteries. And there is truly a joy in discovering the mysteries of life. Not knowing is a gift because it opens the doorway to discovery.
I think it's important to admit to our children that there are things we don't know because this reinforces the fact that learning is a lifelong process. We are always students and our classroom is reality itself.
Annika Harris is working on a new book that covers this very subject-of not knowing. I absolutely love the premise for this book and invite all of you to watch this short video describing it. Her publication, I Wonder, will hopefully come out sometime soon. This is one book I plan on buying and reading with my children.