(ZPD stands for Zone of Proximal Development, Lev Vygotsky believed that the ZPD was where the best learning would occur, and is what most education systems implement. It is just above what you can do on your own, but below what you can do with some help. This idea works great for adults in depth phase who need to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but not for kids! Kids should not be pressured or pushed. It will give them the wrong idea about education and they will develop negative feelings towards learning.)
So, we were reading about the Solar System and the book suggested making a solar system mobile. He got really excited about that and asked me if he could make a mobile. I found a printout of the planets on the Internet and he colored each planet, looking at the book so that he could get the colors just right. Then he told me which order they needed to be hung up in, to represent how close they are to the sun. (He's very particular about things like that.) I'm pretty sure he knows all of the planet names now, and I think that knowledge will stick around. He learned so much more than he would have if I had taken him to the library and said "Okay, we are going to do a unit study on space, so let's pick out five books about the Solar System and then you have to memorize the planets and make a mobile." He would have felt pressured and forced and he would have done it, but very grudgingly.
This experience gave me a much better understanding of the art of inspiring. Even though I didn't plan out any of this and it was pretty much accidental, it worked perfectly. The art of inspiring, is learning how to spark your child's interest in a subject so that they will lead out and ask to know more. Oliver DeMille explains that "inspiring, in contrast to ignoring and forcing, means finding out what the students need and then creatively encouraging them to engage it on their own - with excitement and interest." This is obviously something that I need to work on doing more often and in a better way. If you look at my Daily Food for Thought from yesterday, there is a great quote that also goes along with all of this. It was so fun to see his excitement and interest in the planets, and it gave me some great encouragement to keep going forward with this method we are using.