Ok, I have to admit that I just really messed up. Like REALLY MESSED UP.
To preface, I am an advocate for presuming competence, to not assume that someone isn't getting something because they are not outwardly telling you that they get it, or are not able to answer questions that show that they understand. I truly believe that we must presume that all people are capable of demonstrating knowledge and understanding, just that some are not going to demonstrate that in a traditional way. It is up to me as a parent to listen for the cues and help modify the output of understanding.
Cue my mess up...
Miss A is just home from school the other day. She's being a little silly. She says to me, "Mom, I'm pretty confused about day and night."
"What's there to be confused about?" I ask. "It's pretty simple. Day is when there is light. Night is when it is dark."
She kind of hmms along with me, then says, "That doesn't really clear it up for me."
I smile again. She moves on to something else.
At dinner that night, I relate the story to my husband, thinking it's just an example of Miss A being silly. She listens to me tell the story, then she says, "Yeah, that's confusing to me, too."
We can't help but laugh.
I tell the story to my mom the next day and she says, "Do you think you hurt her feelings when you laughed?"
"No," I say. "I really think she thought we were talking about someone else, and she agreed that day and night are confusing. But there's something else there, I just need to figure it out. I'll keep asking questions."
Miss A comes home from school yesterday and I say, "Let's talk about day and night again. What is confusing to you?"
She mumbles about morning and afternoon, so I jump on that and explain the difference between morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. I'm honestly thrilled that she's interested in the nuances of the day.
She listens, then says, "It's still confusing."
Ok, I'm not to the root of this yet, evidently. I let it go.
Then, this morning, I bring it up again. "What can I tell you about day and night?"
And she says, "Where does the sun go when it's night? Where do the stars go in the day?"
A-freaking-HA! There it is, the root.
She has not been asking about how to tell that it's day. She doesn't need to know what evening means. She wants an explanation of the Earth's rotation. She wants to know about the solar system.
I'm excited for a second, then I feel awful.
We try to find a kids video with a short explanation. I don't even know how to explain it quickly to a child. She's very interested. Then, the bus comes and she has to go.
She says, "I will ask my teacher at school today."
"Good idea," I say. "Make sure you ask her where the sun goes at night." I don't want the teacher to make the same mistake I did and assume that her question is more basic than it is.
There is a big difference between understanding that the sun being up means day and understanding WHY the sun comes up. A huge difference, actually.
And I assumed that she would ask a basic question, not a big one.
Shame on me.
And through all of that, my girl just kept asking the questions, waiting for the answer that she wanted. She didn't get mad at me for my quick and easy answer, she just kept probing. She wasn't frustrated with me for not getting it, she just kept asking. Waiting so patiently for her mom to get it.
The delight in her face this morning when I did finally get it just about broke my heart.
I have more to learn. And luckily I have a very patient teacher. I just don't want to let her down.