Over the weekend, I took my five year old son on his first camping trip. It was just the two of us, which he was very excited about. I hadn’t been camping in about twenty years, so I was pretty excited as well. We camped at Fremont Peak State Park. The views were great, but the flies…well we could have done without those. The other great benefit of the park though is that they have an amateur observatory that opens to the public several nights a month. It just so happens that the night we chose to camp, they were scheduled to be open. So, that was a further reason of excitement for my son (and me as well).
I’m not here to chronicle the details of our camping trip, but I did want to go into what I got out of it. The trip was good for both my son and I, but for different reasons. For my son, as a bit of background, I have to say that his speech was delayed early on. So, while he could read at age two and was interested in lots of things and in everyone he met, he couldn’t really express it until about a year ago. What I’ve been seeing and was further demonstrated by the trip was that new interesting situations make his vocabulary and his communication skills explode into new areas.
When we arrived at the observatory he was a ball of energy, both physically and verbally. Suddenly, he was talking about the observatory and telescopes and binocular telescopes, what they do and how he wanted to build one with me(a green one). The next day, when I took him to school he took me to the art area and drew a line on a piece of paper. Then he drew an intersecting line and told me that this is the one that goes from the road to the observatory, where the telescope is. This was mind blowing for me because he is more of what I would call an abstract artist. Drawing something like a map is not something that I would have expected to have come from him unprompted. It reminded me that he always makes leaps into new areas, not when he is asked, but when he wants to demonstrate something and when it makes sense to him to do so. In many ways, that parallels what has always motivated me to learn things and it really touched me that something I had done with him had inspired him in that way. Where some “educators” had expressed doubt last year that he would be ready for Kindergarten next school year(before I pulled him out of their ridiculous program), I now have none. While he can learn the old fashioned way, when necessary, he learns much faster if he is engaged in a more interactive manner. The next few months will be as interactive as I can make them. He will be ready when the school year comes.
My experience with my son also reminded me that I need to interact more with what I’m learning. More learning by doing ratchets up my pace of learning. While it may not be the near exponential improvement he seems to enjoy, it’s still quite a leap for me as well. So, I intend to get my hands dirty with whatever I learn as soon as I can and not try to glean as much knowledge as I can in preparation. As a bonus, I know that will get me started on projects sooner, which will mean that I will be able to discard dead ends much faster and move on to what works, rather than mastering the minutiae of unhelpful technologies, frameworks or business models. While I think that will be tremendously helpful for me, I think it applies to almost everyone.