I Wonder Where the Wonder Went?


While attending a literacy conference last week, I listened to a speaker address the problem of curiosity and wonder disappearing from children as they spend time in school. It was not a new thought, of course, but one I had not revisited for awhile. I realized that, having recently retired, my perspective has changed considerably! While wonder seems to disappear during childhood… I can tell you that it does come back!

One of the major changes retirement brought to my life was the sudden lack of need to multitask! Stress and pressure disappeared from my days and I now find myself with plenty of time to think about the things that interest me most! My senses are on overdrive as I spend more time outdoors and experience the changes that take place throughout the day, from the early morning frosty trees to the water dripping from the icicles and the sun as it reflects on the snow at sunset. As a teacher, I spent my days inside a building from sunrise to nearly sunset. My thoughts were driven by a need to meet curriculum demands and provide for the needs of my students. Balancing family, job, and other responsibilities directed my thoughts and actions in nearly every waking moment.

Suddenly it seemed clear what happens to children. As preschoolers, children never need to multitask! They have no stress or pressure. They have plenty of time to think about the things that interest them most! Their senses are on overdrive as they spend more time outdoors and experience changes that take place throughout the day! Everything is new and interesting and captures their curiosity! Nearly every waking moment is spent in play and exploration as they explore the world around them.

School brings a change to that experience. The older children get, the more pressures are placed on them. Their lives are greatly controlled by school where they spend the greatest part of the day inside, being told what to think and what to do. Many children are even controlled beyond the school day as they are scheduled for sports, dance, and clubs! Evening brings homework for many. There is little time left for unstructured thought and feeling. Alarmingly, we are placing those pressures on children at a younger age than even before!

If we want to develop creativity, curiosity, and innovation in our students, we must somehow recapture the innocence of early childhood. Time is the critical factor. What if children had more unstructured time? What if we slowed everything down and took time to simply be? What if children were able to focus on just one thing long enough to really learn about it? What if there were no homework? What if teachers were given time to simply think and reflect? What if wonder returned before retirement?

I wonder????


Stress from attempting to balance family, work, time, and energy sapping demands of life scripts we subscribe to nowadays is robbing all ages of curiosity and wonder. Time to live in the moment; to still ourselves and allow curiosity to flourish; to enjoy and embrace the world around us. Recognizing this is much of why I chose to retire this spring instead of struggling to keep pace. I am fortunate to live in the same town as my four grand children, ages 10-12. I am choosing to give up extra “retirement” income to be available to be a grandmother, to allow myself to take a deep breath and slow down, enjoy the sunrise, geraniums on the windiw sill, pet my animals, watch icicles melt, and to encourage my children and grandchildren to do the same. I know the joy of wonderment, and how it thrives when we give it a chance; to take time to notice, observe, and think. If we’re scheduled to the max, tired, and mentally exhausted, we miss out, as do oh children and grandchildren. Without curiosity and creativity it inspires, we exist but do not live. Cheryl, thanks for sharing your reflections…I wonder, too, how to help bring back true wonder? I am ready and willing to collaborate with you to encourage a shift for others to think this way!

Thank you, Mary, for your comment and support! Let’s get together! People should not have to retire to experience life to the fullest. Another aspect of this I realized last night is that books that I now enjoy reading in a few days, took me at least a month to complete while I was working. Then I reflected on the reading expected of students. I, personally, have to quiet my mind to enjoy and comprehend what I read. When do kids have time to quiet their minds and enough time to really enjoy reading for pleasure? Of course some do, but I believe assigned reading simply becomes one more thing piled on the expectations and demands of most kids, extinguishing the love of reading that we want our kids to build. There was a story on the news this morning about the increase in youth depression. It’s no wonder…. It’s all about time…

Hello Cheryl,
Much of my first month of retirement has been trying to slow down and accept that much of last 10 years of my career was stuffed full of emails, voice messages, passwords, ever changing procedures and constant busywork that totally filled my schedule and eroded my effectiveness as an educator and consumed so much of me. I realize now how stressful this was was and how I had no concept of the toll stress was taking on my mental and physical person….I refuse to spend my life this way and am determined to do what I can to help make a shift to change this unhealthy culture where I can make a difference. Our adult children and grandchildren live in this scary, stressful zone. I am so happy I decided to change my direction and look forward to getting together to share ideas to help bring wonder, curiosity, and time to reflect to those who have lost this precious time or never experienced it at all.

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