Last week I wrote this post about a conversation I overhead in the grocery store, where a knowledge-hungry girl was ignored by her preoccupied father. My oldest son Richard visited that weekend, and I told him the story and showed him the post I was writing. He was astonished.
“You NEVER did that to us. You always tried to answer our questions” he proclaimed.
I liked to think I tried. Part of me believes I would have made a decent science teacher or math teacher. I like to explain things, look for ways to illustrate a difficult concept in layman’s terms and make it as interesting to the listener as I find it. My sons knew that if they had a math or science question, bring me a pad of paper and a pencil or else I couldn’t help them. That’s translated to my work, where I have a huge whiteboard on one wall so I can talk. I also have put whiteboards in my staff’s offices. I also carry around a Moleskine (which I blogged about here), so that I’m never without something to take notes or sketch out a concept. The nice thing about using a whiteboard, even if you can’t afford the fancy ones that capture your drawings to a computer, is that you can take a picture of it and use it later as evidence of first conception for a patent application or for a memory refresher.
When the boys were fairly young, one of them asked me something about how the sun “goes down” at night. I drew a dot on an orange, and using a flashlight, I showed how a person on the Earth (the dot) goes in and out of the sunlight as we rotate on our axis.
Another thing I did was keep my collection of science fiction and fantasy books at their eye level. SF books are well-known to have pretty lurid or purely awful covers (here and here and HERE), which would catch the eyes of my budding young minds. Richard is a gifted artist, and started drawing from the time he could hold a crayon in his chubby little fingers. His interest in the colorful art tempted him to read the books. I firmly believe good science fiction is a great way to get children thinking about possibilities, science, and the Other.