defending kids right to interpret differently / make mistakes - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 02-22-2012, 09:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I feel it is very important to let my dd (age 8) try different explanations for things, even if they aren't correct, and have time to figure out what is wrong with them.  For example why some things float and others sink, or why the flute makes different pitch sounds.  Is it vitally impt that she know the correct explanations for this right now?  


However, one family member seems to think that I am "not teaching" her.    I try to explain that this is my way of facilitation. 


She also says things like, “in school you have to give the answer that the teacher says. If you say, no I will think on my own and give my own answer then you will not get marks. You may think you are smart but you will fail. What good is that?”


When she says this she is not merely saying that as a practical strategy you must compromise in order to move ahead. She also seems to value the compromise in itself, as if obedience to authority even when you know it is wrong shows respect for the system, even though it may be flawed here and there. I of course say that if you respect the system then you would hold it to high standards, expect excellence and therefore not accept the flaws. To which she says, you first pass through the system, then reform it.

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#2 of 4 Old 02-22-2012, 09:35 PM
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Oh, I think she is wrong!  I think that if your child has the opportunity to learn through discovery, that is (often) the best way to learn. About the references to the way it works in schools. . . sure, some teachers are like that, but I had some that were very good at listening to my theories, etc.  Some encouraged exploration.  Sometimes though, time restraints required a certain amount of focus.


I believe they have a term for exploratory learning. . . "scientific method."  So, I guess in response to the MIL, I would say something along the lines that it is very important for children to learn the "scientific method".  


Really though, even if your child is determined to show that 2+2 is 5 instead of 4, she would learn a lot just trying to make a case for it.  In the process, she would probably come to a deeper understanding of why.  I think it is more important that your dd learns to love the process of learning and to learn to think for herself than to just know the right reason for anything.



Mom to three very active girls Anna (15), Kayla (12), Maya (9).
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#3 of 4 Old 02-28-2012, 07:42 PM
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Carolyn Dweck has researched and written on the subject of Mindset extensively -- her paperback book by that title is an interesting read.  What she talks about is that the more successful children and adults are those who are okay with being wrong while they explore issues; she calls these people "growth minded".  The people who are so rigidly focussed on being "right" and being perceived as intelligent (or talented or whatever) stop taking risks because it threatens their image; since they don't want to try the "hard" stuff that might expose that they aren't always "correct", they stop learning as much.  One classic example is Edison -- he blew it several times on the whole light bulb thing.  More examples of people who failed multiple timesare here:


Carolyn Dweck's website is:


AAK, I wonder if the phrase you were looking for in regards to exploratory learning is "inquiry based learning".  Again, entire books have been written about it, including at least one about bringing inquiry based learning into school classrooms, particularly in science. 

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#4 of 4 Old 02-29-2012, 07:38 AM
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I am with you on this, and have had many chances recently to mull it over recently.  I don't make myself not answer if they ask me point blank and I know the answer, but just as often I want to let it slide.  Mainly, I don't feel the push to be artificial about it.


I feel, though, that it is more important to give kids the chance to discover.  This is what scientists *do*!  It is so much more satisfying to make your own discovery and then find out that *scientists have a name for what you just discovered*!  They might not be formulating a hypothesis on paper, but they are going through the scientific process in their head.  Even my 6th grade science-teacher-sister agrees here, but she is limited by the need for schools to *document progress* and have all 30 students be on the same level, which requires that hypothesis on paper.


And yeah, I don't think it is that important to correct here.  One way you could gently correct if you felt that she has been leaning on one incorrect idea for too long is to offer up a counter-experiment that shows that her ideas need some adjustment.  "How can both these experiments be right?"  I would need to be doing my own research to find a good one, but if her misconception lasted a long time without revision, I might be tempted to.  And an 8yo is certainly old enough to start have some open discourse on this now and then. 


But, no, it is not your place to tell her all the answers.  


Allowing her to find her own way is invaluable.

"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
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