Maritza Ruiz-Kim

Artist, San Francisco Bay Area

Big Wheels Keep on Turning

Just a few posts ago, I talked about how Enn knows the states of the U.S.- about how he would look at a shape and tell me that it looks like a certain state. From that, it seemed like he actually *knew* the 50 states by name (my friend thought that’s what I meant), and it actually hadn’t occurred to me that he’d know all 50 by name & position on the map. But once someone thought that, I figured… hmm…. let’s check this out. We made a game of it. I sat him down & wrote out #’s 1-50, and I set out to let him recite each of the 50 states.

I was in a bit of awe. He’s five & a half.

He got to #43 all by himself, no hints from me. And frankly, I probably couldn’t have gotten that high myself. Actually, until recently, it’s been stuck in my head that New York City is north of Boston. OK, now I know better. I gave him a few hints for the next couple, and then for #47-50 we had to look up those up on our map.

Anyway, one might assume that my excitement would be mainly over this mastery of knowledge, these facts. One might think that the next logical step is to memorize the capitals, or presidents, or something like that. I shared this whole “He knows the states” story with his kindergarten teacher, and she might even think that’s what I’m most impressed by. I mean, I sort of am. I am amazed to watch a little brain tick and file all that info in such a way as to be easily retrieved and recited. It’s cool. It’s like watching a machine do it’s thing. All human brains are processing, and in this case I got to see it in action. The Big Wheels of His Mind Turning & Working.

But let me tell you what I love the most: Watching Enn have a passion for learning. Watching him chase a subject down with zest. Watching him devour all related articles and integrate the information. I guess we’ve been slowly working up to this thing…

  • Last August, I bought him children’s maps– huge, laminated, illustrated, and posted them on his bedroom wall. This was so he’d be able to see where mommy & daddy were when we went to Europe.
  • Sometime in the Fall my mom bought him a US State book from the dollar store, and he strangely made it into his go-to book. It individually shows the states, along with state flower, capital, etc.
  • In November, I let him guide is around Sea World with the park map, and he was hooked on telling us where to go.
  • A few weeks ago, I showed him why I collected quarters, and I showed him my US State Quarter Map, and how for 10 years I have been collecting all these quarters and was just a couple short (since found) of a complete collection. He was so fascinated, I got him his own map, and went through our change jugs, and he quickly nearly filled his map. It was a huge thrill.
  • He loves knowing where his uncles live (So. Cal & Nevada) he loves knowing where he’s been in the US (NM, TX, NV, CA -duh-, OR) and he is deciding where else he wants us to go (Grand Canyon.)
  • He loves watching ESPN and identifying the home states of the teams… he is a sports fanatic.

But what I am trying to say is, I am way more excited about how this all is a vehicle to explore the process of learning, more than I am excited about him being able to stand up and list 50 states, impressed as I am by that. I am so excited that Enn is old enough to sink his teeth into something, and because of that, we get to explore the world of learning together. FYI, I am totally referencing the Camp Creek Blog as a place for ideas on how to be the kind of teacher I want to be with him, even though homeschooling didn’t work out for us. I want him to be inquisitive, to be able to seek out places that have more information on what he’s interested in, I want him to ask questions and see where it leads him. While we were hanging out in front of our house yesterday, I told him this cool little fact that there is a person in our community who’s really good at telling us where to go to find the best books & the answers to our questions. And she is called The Librarian. And his eyes got big when I told him she could tell us where to find the best books on maps, and I told him he could do it, he could go up to her and ask her. He wanted to to that right away. That, and go golfing with Daddy. (He got to do both.)

And when we got to the library, we’d reviewed what he’d say a few times, but he went blank when he stood before The Librarian. I whispered to him, and he looked at her again, and he asked “For the best books she has on maps”! He followed her closely as she led us to the right spot in the kids section, and viola, more little volumes for him to devour! Atlases, books, and I let him decide which to take from the shelves, sort through at a table, and select which to bring home.

Now it’s the gentle guiding into the next step. Easy would be just moving onto another list to memorize. He’s kinda pumped about getting right answers. Or I could start presenting him with the several ideas I have for him to further delve into this thing Another thing is, if I push too hard or fast, he’ll resist and just turn this thing off- he’s not into following my lead just because. But I am figuring out something much more important. He’s depending on me for something bigger.

And I’m working on figuring out what that is exactly. (I’m thinking- something about learning how to look at things from different angles, how to keep asking questions, and how to learn new things all on his own?)

This is all making for a wonderful little adventure!

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