“Numbers have no beginning or end. Numbers are kind of like God. I just realized that.”
From the mouth of babes. These are the words that make a classical-educator-dad proud. This is what my 2nd grade son tells me on the way to school the other day. A couple minutes later, he spouts off another timeless question: “Numbers greater than zero are positive. Numbers less than zero are negative. So what is ‘Zero’?” Wow! Two questions for the ages. For millennia philosophers have been discussing these very questions: How Number relates to God and what exactly is Zero?
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I am not qualified to provide him with great answers to these questions (I told him “Go ask Mr. Dan”), and perhaps my son will never fully answer the questions himself, which I am perfectly Ok with. What is important to me is that he is asking the questions. What I particularly cherish though is that these questions were birthed out of wonder—not because he was told he needs to ask them. What a beautiful thing! What a gift to us and to our world that children have these questions implanted deep in their souls—that their imago Dei reaches out to know God through the Universe that He has created!
Not all 2nd grade students will ask these questions. God has designed them all unique in many ways. So I’m not proposing a 2nd grade curriculum that attempts to conjure up these questions and hash them out. But at the same time the curriculum should not stymie these questions with pat answers that do more to short-circuit wonder than to cultivate it.
Therefore a goal of the classical grammar school teacher is to equip students with the grammar of their subjects while cultivating their wonder at God’s creation. This is easier said than done as there is an anxiety in many of us to feel like we need to answer every question that’s asked. Some questions don’t need answers. The response to many questions should be, “That’s a great question! What do you think?”
It takes a master teacher to discern the difference between which questions need “grammar” answers and which questions should be left open for later consideration.
Do you have similar stories of children experiencing wonder? If so, I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below or in the comments on Facebook if you accessed this article through a Facebook link! Then share this article inviting your friends to share their own stories of children experiencing wonder!