When the temperature sneaks above 20 and the sun pokes out of the winter grey, I seize the opportunity to take my son skiing.

He’s gone a handful of times, and each trip out to the slopes is a clean slate. I never know if our day will end within minutes with chilled fingers and tears or if a quick half hour will turn into two hours of taking turns, giggling, exclaiming, “I’m doing it,” and begging for more time on skis.

As parents and educators, we are not unfamiliar with this battle against learning, right? Sometimes we’re trudging uphill, grinding against gravity and friction and a whole lot of whining.

Other times we are gliding downhill, basking in the glow of sunshine and – oh my goodness – smiles!

The most encouraging and gratifying experience within this is the teachable moment.

It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put into lesson plans or how often you’ve repeated “make a pizza pie” on the ski slope. The real beauty comes when something magically connects in a child’s brain. He is no longer attempting to memorize or regurgitate your information but instead synapses spark, and he begins formulating truths of his own.

This happened on our last ski trip. No matter what I said to convince my son to keep his tips together and make a wedge, he wouldn’t do it and even claimed he was flat out unable (despite the fact that he’d mastered it the last time). But when he saw an older child skid to a halt in a hockey stop on his skis, my son was in awe of the spray of snow. He said, “Mommy, he made dust. I want to make dust too!”

Aha! Teachable moment.

The rest of the afternoon we ignored pizzas and wedges and all other directives. Instead, we focused on making dust. So though his tips were still together and his skis splayed out in the shape of a pizza slice, he had no idea we were making a pizza pie with his skis. He only focused on the fact that when his legs were wide, they made dust. And with each run he took, he wanted to know whether he’d made good dust when he slowly carved down the hill.

Teachable moments are like little sparks of magic – unpredictable and unexpected jolts of clarity for a child. Sometimes they lead to clever questions. Other times they carve the path for independent learning. But they are always moments worth seizing. You never know where they might lead you.

In the meantime, check out our booklists for the right book to keep exploring the new skills your little learner has discovered.

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