Sunday, August 04, 2013
please just tell them what it means...
A few weeks ago, I followed a link to the essay Where Did Our Vocabulary Go? and found myself in a heated online debate about whether it's better parenting to tell kids to look up new words for themselves or just tell them what it means. I think I was the only one who voted to just answer the question. (I'm also pretty sure that I was the only homeschooler involved in the discussion. It might be fun to ask some other homeschoolers and see what they think.)
If I know how to define the word, I'll tell my kids what it means. Why make them put the book down and look it up? They can learn about alphabetical order and guide words when they're not in the middle of an interesting story.
That's if the word they want is even IN the dictionary. We went through six or seven different children' s dictionaries in our house before I finally gave up on them. By the time my kids (and that includes the littlest two) don't know what it means, it's time to Google it. I love that the Kindles allow them to quickly click and get the meaning of most words. Not because it keeps them from bugging me, but because it doesn't interrupt their reading as much.
My seven and eight year olds already know most of those million dollar words listed in that essay. Maybe it's a homeschooling thing. Or a listening to lots of good audio books in the car thing.
As for learning to do research -- the same week I read that article, all four of the kids got into a debate about whether or not anteaters have teeth. There's no shortage of research going on in this house. Teenage Daughter has a new favorite word, erinaceous. She discovered that one on Pinterest.
Anyone else agree with me that Pinterest and Wikipedia just might be the modern equivalent to learning neat facts by flipping through a dictionary or hardback encyclopedia?
I'll be linking this post to WFMW at We are THAT Family.
Edited to add:
Lucy from Charm About You had a great point about Wikipedia being full of misinformation. Most of the discoveries my kids tell me about include whether or not they've verified whatever it is through another source. We've found errors in television documentaries, and those children's books from the library that are held up as fact-checked and superior to the internet. Two books from respectable publishers gave us totally different information about the same animal last week.