education, family

Cube Curiosity

Two months ago I discovered my oldest son has a hidden talent: he knows how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Now for some of you parents (and even teachers!) you may not think this is a big deal; however, let me add another detail.

We don’t own a Rubik’s Cube.

It all started when his younger brother came home to share the latest trinket he received from his friends. There’s a fair trade of bartering going on during and after school, so we’re always ooohing and aaahhhhing over his latest acquisition. On this particular day, it was a tiny cube with brightly colored stickers, a knock-off version of the classic Rubik’s Cube.

I sat on the sofa, showing my little guy how to twist and turn the cube to make three colors in a row (which is just about the apex of my knowledge when it comes to this gadget) when my older son plopped down beside me and asked the question that opened the door to discovery:

“You want me to solve that for you?”

I turned to him and replied with slight sarcasm in my voice, “YOU know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube?”

He smiled in that nonchalant way, as if we were chatting about a common task like making a paper airplane, and simply stated, “Yeah, sure. I know how to solve it.”

I laughed out loud. Such absurdity. In an instant I was thrown back to my own middle school years where I would go to my room, secretly peel off the stickers and rearrange them correctly to “prove” that I was just as smart as my friends (whom I later discovered were doing exactly the same thing as me!) I never wanted to admit defeat, the seed of perfectionism already planted deep in my soul.

My son shares many of my attributes. His unwavering confidence is something we tease him about; even though he’s only thirteen, he can be quite smug about his ability to do all things. This was no different.

I handed him the cube and watched as he turned the blocks this way and that. He paused, turning the cube around and continued again. Within minutes he handed it back to me, solved.

I. Was. Dumbfounded.

Then I was intrigued.

“How did you learn how to do that?” I asked in utter amazement. Keep in mind, we don’t own a Rubik’s cube. I had never seen him even hold one, much less solve it!

“Oh it was easy,” he shared, “I just memorized the algorithms.”

Sometimes I don’t give my children enough credit for the things they learn on their own. I still hold tight to that misconception that they need me to be their teacher. I forget just how smart they really are and assume that their knowledge doesn’t supersede my own.

Each day I see my child sitting on the sofa, eyes staring at his phone, earbuds dangling from his ears. My impulse is to fuss at him for wasting time watching so many YouTube videos and push him out the door to ride bikes with his friends like we did at his age.

The irony is that his friends are doing the same thing. They, too, are obsessed with YouTube videos and use it as their primary source for learning. They literally hold the world in their fingertips with one website URL, a global agency of collective learning available with a few taps on a digital keyboard.

When I was thirteen, I rode bikes. He’s memorizing algorithms. Just because his learning is virtual, does that make it any less relevant?

After 18 years of being a mom, I’m still learning from my children.

Over spring break my son received the ultimate challenge – to solve 36 Rubik’s Cubes in less than an hour. He not only accepted and completed the challenge, but had to do it twice because his oh-so-perfect mom who is also a technologist (that would be me), recorded the first round on slow-mo instead of time-lapse. Egads!

If you would like to see the Rubik’s Cube time-lapse video, click here. It really is quite impressive!

I’m happy to share that my son finally received a Rubik’s cube of his own to keep and now that the skill is mastered, he’s diving into other passions for the summer. Imagine if we gave every child the opportunity to seek out information and support their interests, to follow their own path to understanding. We might just learn a thing or two from them in the process!


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