Metrically speaking, of course …

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So the Lion boy starts chemistry on Friday.

I am well versed in a variety of things. Ask me questions about Shakespeare, or early twentieth century film, or ever basic biology, and I usually can come up with an intelligent answer. Cooking, cleaning, history, geography, even government, I can have a conversation with you. I have this friend who works large dairy farms, and he’s given me enough information that I can even nod knowingly talking about cows.

But chemistry? Yeah, I’ve never taught it or taken it.

How did I get two other kids to college with chemistry on their transcripts? Thank God for a home schooling community that allowed me to ship them off to a highly intelligent doctor who (for a ridiculously small fee) taught them and even did labs! See, it’s a misconception that, because I home school, I “do it all” alone. Home schooling in its best light involves a community. Ms. Clinton wasn’t so wrong when she said “It takes a village to raise a child.” That is especially true in context of home schooling.

The difference for me, though, is that I still always had a say in what the kids learned and what environments they were subjected to while learning said stuff. But, I digress, because this isn’t a post about home schooling, per say.

So, the first chapter of chemistry is all about teaching the student metric conversions and equivalents and all. Yeah, we did that … like in third or fourth grade math! That was a long time ago, and like many skills we learn, if they are not used on a regular basis, we lost them, relegate them to the back of our memory so we can say they are “still there,” but they sit like forgotten patients at a nursing home, quiet and overlooked, lost midst the activity that is our “real” life. “Teaching” this stuff again is like trying to resurrect a man dead more than three days. It stinks! to put it bluntly.

And I see the frustration in my son’s eyes, and it takes everything in me not to whine right along side of him. I reassure him it will come easier as he practices. It’s no longer simple metric work … decimals and conversions to other things like volume and mass … it’s a little frustrating, no doubt. And while he is the type of child that is able to figure almost anything out eventually, his ability to understand is definitely proportionate to his level of frustration.

If he could only see that metrics is little more that sliding that decimal around. Going to the right helps us convert large units to smaller ones, while doing the opposite gives us bigger measurements from the smaller. Moving a simple dot helps change the measurement. It changes the game. It changes everything.

I wonder, how often in my life is a simple change the key to understanding my biggest questions? I understand the world is not metrically constructed. Things can’t be boiled down to unyielding formulas and certain game plans. In fact, the “fun” of life is often we really have no idea what’s coming next. My experience has taught me that is true in my greatest tragedies — and my greatest joys.

Still I wonder … do I allow myself to over-complicate things so much that I inhibit my ability to not only understand, but to get things done? I was thinking about that this morning … how many times I let my methodical way of thinking get in the way of simply moving a decimal here and there, making all the difference? I know I’m oversimplifying things, but honestly … sometimes I get lost in the ways of over-complicating that I’m rendered useless, stalled on the sidelines when all it would take to “get me going” is to get going!

I know my son is really going to enjoy chemistry. He likes to learn new things, and before long, this metric way of thinking will become second nature. I’d like to say that this, “simplify and put into action” way of thinking would become my “second nature” as well. The only person that can determine that, though, is me. So … we’ll see.

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