Within limits children need freedom to experiment and learn about their interests. This is not only the best way to learn, but early in life, it’s how we figure out what our interests will be. I thank God for the parents He gave me. Not only were they themselves active and creative but they also encouraged all their children to explore special areas of interest. One of my brothers was into sports and our parents helped him get involved in sports. Two of us were especially interested in plants and animals and our parents were often in the lead with this interest or else allowed us the freedom to try for ourselves.
Nothing beats hands on experience.
What we learn in this manner will stick with us for life. Such learning is also cumulative. Parents can help children learn by doing and teaching, but they also encourage learning by allowing independent experimentation. This can be quite stretching, but in the long run, the rewards are great. Let me give you just one snippet of life from my childhood. It not only illustrates the importance of letting a child explore interests, it’s also entertaining.
To help a child grow and develop we need to allow them to explore their interests.
From my earliest memories I was fascinated with animals. My parents deserved a medal for allowing me and my brothers to have so many pets: turtles, birds, a snake or two, all kinds of fish, some lizards and a number of rodents.
In my early struggles with reading I came across a number of books about children having pet mice. I was really intrigued with this and soon set about trying to “get me one of those.” My folks made no commitment about letting me get a mouse. They did, however, allow me to set out to catch rodents. Somehow my folks and I didn’t get around to discussing what I might do with any critters I trapped,
Though they didn’t give me permission to have a pet mouse, my parents did let me trap one.
My earliest trapping experiences were with a small live trap used to catch rodents in the field. Meanwhile I spent much of my library time reading up on all kinds of rodents. When I studied about deer mice I learned they were “docile.” This, I interpreted as meaning “easy to tame.” Once I decided to get a deer mouse it wasn’t long before I caught one. I didn’t ask if I could keep it, but… I did, keeping it in a small tank in my room, lowering a sock into the tank in order to handle the mouse. It would go into the sock to hide and then, I’d pick it up. The plan was to tame it and then, when it was well behaved, introduce my tame mouse to my parents I was sure they’d let me keep it if it was tame. I was SO EXCITED!
Experiments can introduce a certain degree of … chaos.
Often our family spent part of the evening, sitting together and watching the television (1970s programs). I wanted to join them but was so excited about my deer mouse I felt I just couldn’t leave him alone in my room. They would all be watching the TV and I reasoned that they wouldn’t even notice I was holding a sock while I watched with them. I carried my mouse to the family room, holding him in his sock. We all settled down to watch a show and while everyone was looking at the TV I worked on taming my mouse. I stroked it from outside the sock. Thinking he was relaxed, I opened the end of the sock and looked at him. He didn’t move. I reached in and stroked the mouse’s fur. Suddenly THE MOUSE LEAPED OUT OF THE SOCK!
My mouse was getting away!
I let out with a yell: “My mouse is getting away!” My brothers immediately joined in, with exclamations like, “There he goes!” Grab him!” Mom and Dad were sitting in their chairs looking confused. They weren’t shocked. After all, they were raising three boys. I don’t recall what they said, but I suspect that “Mouse?” was part of it. The mouse headed toward the TV and my brother Tim blocked its way with his foot. We thought we had him, but… the mouse quickly squirted up my brother’s pant leg, going as high as it could before my brother managed to restrict its progress.
The Mouse squirted up my brother’s pant leg!
By now we couldn’t understand a word Tim was saying His voice had risen several octaves in pitch and there was too much shouting in the background. We did recapture the mouse. I did not get to keep it, My parents told me to take it outside and release it immediately. Interestingly, I don’t remember my parents being cross about this event. They simply dealt with it and we went on with life. Through this experience I learned a lot about mice, myself, my parents and even a future perspective for my own parenting.
How I learned to butcher chickens was interesting as well!
Lessons Learned through a Deer Mouse, regarding critters:
- It’s much more difficult to tame a wild animal than one might think.
- An animal’s fear may not look like human fear.
- Frightened rodents seek to hide; sometimes in embarrassing or uncomfortable places!
- If I wanted a pet mouse, I should get a domestic one.
- Within limits, my parents would be understanding and support me in my interests. They gave me freedom to experiment and learn.
Lessons Learned through a Deer Mouse, about parenting:
- Later in life I realized that I should show the same kind of understanding and compassion, to my children, I had been shown by my parents.
- What is best taught is “caught,” not “taught.” (observation). As a child I observed and admired my parents’ style of raising kids.
- Children thrive with some freedom to pursue their personal bent.
- A parent’s relaxed attitude about “experiments” encourages personal growth and learning.
- A parent doesn’t have to share the same interest, to encourage a child in it.
- Though a child cannot be free to experiment with no oversight, experimentation is still a good thing.