It just keeps happening, these moments when it strikes me that teaching does not have to be an active and deliberate thing. Learning just happens as we go about our daily lives. It is not forced, not contrived, not confined to "school time", but rather natural and spontaneous.
I know these things, and yet too often I fall into the trap of thinking I need to teach him these skills. I need to teach him his letters. I need to teach him how to use scissors. I need to teach him this, that, and the other.
I don't. He keeps proving this to me time and time again, and I keep forgetting just as often.
I've found it to be true with reading and writing. Every time I think I should start working with him on a new skill - counting, number recognition, letter recognition, writing, phonics, spelling - he preempts me by learning them all on his own. Sometimes he observes, sometimes he asks me questions, sometimes he practices on his own, and suddenly he just knows the very skill I was planning to introduce and teach to him.
I think I've finally got the message though. Sometime last fall, I bought him a cutting book so that he could "practice" his scissor skills. He was enthusiastic and eager, but many days ended up frustrated when he couldn't do what the page wanted him to do. He was far more interested in just cutting the pages into little bits. Finally, I put the book away, and the scissors sat mostly ignored for the next couple months.
Recently, he rediscovered the book in his small stack of generally neglected "I'm a homeschooling mom and I should get these materials so he can practice practice practice!" workbooks. He took a page out, grabbed his scissors, and effortlessly cut out the picture. Proud, he brought it over to show me. He'd done it. He hadn't needed to practice his scissor skills. He just needed to wait a couple extra months until he was physically ready to use them.
Foolish, foolish me. I say these things, I believe these things, and yet I keep on forgetting. If we provide a learning rich environment, our children will learn. They will learn in their own time and in their own way. Yes, there are certain things that require practice to master; yes, there will come a time when teaching is more active and deliberate. But for now and for most things, time and life will provide them with exactly the skills they need. Children have both the desire and the ability to learn - sometimes all they need is for us to step out of their way and let them.