A problem with teachable moments
My youngest just came to me asking if he could have some fresh mango. I said I'd need to check whether our mango was ripe. He came over and asked what I was doing, so I explained. I showed him the mango, he felt it, we did the same for the pear and kiwi, we talked about how we could tell a whether the bananas were ripe and then ... that was it ... his curiosity was filled. He went off to continue playing whilst I sliced and diced the ripe mango.
There was a moment when I considered telling him about seeds, why fruits ripen and what happens; to turn it into a "teachable" moment...but I didn't...I sensed that his curiosity/learning was satiated on this topic, at that moment.
The most efficient learning comes from THEIR intrinsic curiosity. We all hold our own mental models of the world in our heads. Whilst I can guess at the mental models my children have, I cannot ever truly know. And no ... testing does not reveal their mental model, it is possible to pass tests with flying colours from short term memory/rote learning and not really truly knowing and understanding something.
Real learning happens when new information "fills a gap", "challenges" or is "hung off" the model they already have. By making something into a "teachable moment" we move from their agenda to add to their mental model to our agenda of what we want to teach them. The further we take these teachable moments down a path that diverges from their agenda, the less learning happens, and the greater the potential damage to their learning and curiosity. By insisting we teach beyond their bounds of curiosity we start to make learning work instead of play, something "done to" them rather than "by them", and it may stifle their desire to come and ask us further things in the future for fear of information overload.
I'm not for a minute saying don't ever offer extra information that you think may be interesting to them. What I'm saying is to stay connected, respectful and authentic to THEIR curiosity, and to know when to stop. This is when the most powerful and efficient learning happens.