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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Difficult Subject

We have plowed into a brand new school year, with Ryan as a fifth grader, Lindsay in second, and Logan and Hannah doing preschool work. I have continued my laid back methods of teaching, and so far things are going well. Almost too well at times, though.

You see, most of the time, we start off on one subject, usually chosen by the kids, sometimes by me. But then, then we go off on a tangent. And then another. And another. The kids lead the conversation, asking new things, and we head to the set of encyclopedias or good old Google.

Most of our "lessons" are actually just long conversations. This works well for us. The trouble is, I have bright children. While I am happy about this, at the same time, it means things can get very hard, very quick. Today is a good example of what I mean. I did a bit of nudging today with the lesson, instead of letting them just pick. Last week, we had made a game out of figuring out the names of all fifty states. Today, I told each of them to choose a state they wanted to learn about. Any state out of the fifty was fair game. Ryan chose Florida, and Lindsay chose Ohio. Lindsay was done pretty quickly. She looked up the things in the encyclopedia I had asked her to find out, and she had fun drawing on the little map of the state I had printed out for her.

Ryan had a bit more of a difficult time, so I helped him and we worked through it together. Then a tangent started about hurricanes. Ryan is a worrier, always has been. It's something we really try to keep in check but I haven't had as much success with that as I'd like. So when Ryan thinks of Florida, one of the first things he thinks of is not white sand or beautiful water. It's hurricanes.

I went with it though, pleased that our "social studies" requirement for the day had been met, and we were moving into science. We talked about how hurricanes form, where they tend to go, jet streams, etc. Then he started asking about where hurricanes hit, and somehow or another, we ended up talking about Katrina. (I think it happened when we were looking at a webpage that listed the different storm tracks of recent hurricanes or something.)

I'm confident as a teacher until we get to these moments. Trying to explain Katrina to him, without overwhelming him, was tricky, and I'm still not sure I did it right. I don't want to lie to him, I want him to be informed. I know he's starting to get to the age where he is going to learn all sorts of things that are not happy. (Wars, the Holocaust, and racism come to mind) But I don't want to give more fuel to his worry prone personality either.

I have to admit I'm a bit stumped on how to go about it. I can't keep it from him, but he's such a sensitive kid, I don't know how to keep it from damaging him. Or is it damage that I should just let happen to him, and try to just be there for him? I don't want him to end up with an ulcer or something.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery appreciated on this one.

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