Teachable Moments are for the Birds

Today L, who is seven, came into my room as I was lounging on the bed with the two youngest, and asked, “How do you spell ‘this’?” I told him, he ran off, and that was that.

It brought to mind a concept I learned from the unschooling community, that I thought I’d share with you. It is this: just answer your kids’ questions.

When E was L’s age, I knew about that advice, but I mostly didn’t take it. If she asked me how to spell something, I’d get her to try first. You know what that accomplished? Frustration. Frustration is what it accomplished—for both of us, frankly.

Today, when I answered L’s question straight up, you know what it accomplished? He found out how to spell a word. Then he went and spelled that word. And I can confirm that over time, they ask less often and just remember how to spell the words—because they’re seeing them and using them all the time anyway. They’re smart—they pick up on the patterns.

Especially when they’re not reticent to ask questions because they don’t feel like engaging in a curated “learning opportunity”.

You know who doesn’t ask how to spell “this”? G. Because he’s been spelling it a couple years longer than L has. And he built enough confidence in that time to not need to ask anymore. All without his mom annoyingly quizzing him on the things he wants to know.

So be free, my little birds. Release yourself from “teachable moments”. Freely giving information is a teachable moment. They absolutely do learn, and nobody’s frustrated in the process. 10/10 would recommend.

2 thoughts on “Teachable Moments are for the Birds

Add yours

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been following your blog for several months now, via e-mail subscription and I just love all the little tidbits about unschooling. I always feel like some power-hungry holder of all the knowledge when I don’t just spell the word for mykids. When my husband asks how to spell something, I just spell it, albeit sometimes with a “really?!” but then I just spell it. I don’t quiz him or say, “you try it first and then I’ll correct you if you’re wrong.” Why on earth would I do that to my children? Anyway, I really appreciate your blog. Have a great week!


    1. Thank you, that’s great to hear! And I know just what you mean about feeling like some kind of knowledge hoarding tyrant. It’s funny how different we sometimes think we need to treat kids from ourselves. And so much pressure off when we allow ourselves to quit it!


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