Hmm? It is so tempting. Emily walks into the living room during your favorite show. "Mom, what is a cylinder?" You reply, "Look it up!"
At that moment, you feel assured that you have just encouraged independence and sparked a love of learning for your child. Also, we want them to use those cool devices we buy them for holidays and birthdays.
Let's see... When I type the word "cylinder" in a Google search, this is what appears:
I did not mention Emily's age, but learning about the characteristics of geometric figures is typical during the middle-school grade levels. Given that Emily knows the definitions of "parallel" and "curvilinear", she may have a standing chance, and your suggestion may be an effective learning tool. OK, this is not likely!
What if the conversation directed Emily to explore her own thoughts in the beginning - to tap into her prior knowledge of cylinders? Here is another spin on the conversation. "Mom, what is a cylinder?" You reply, "Well, Emily, what do you think a cylinder is?" This shows Emily that you are interested in what she already knows and that you value her thoughts as an independent learner. Additionally, it causes Emily to form her own opinions about what the definition could or could not be, which will likely help her filter through the search topics. With your undivided attention, this could also be an opportunity to help Emily learn the skills needed to perform quality online research and not to just rely on the first link that aligns with her reading level.
Here are three things to remember when answering your child's questions - be patient, lead but do not dictate, and always value the process of learning. We learn through our experiences. Take advantage of those opportunities to actively learn together.
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