Koalas aren’t Bears and Orcas aren’t Whales

“Mommy, why do you like koala bears so much?” Sunshine asked me. I smiled as I flipped the turn signal and checked my rear view mirror.

“Because they’re cute,” I answered, changing lanes. “One of my babysitters gave me a stuffed koala when I was your age, and he’s gone with me a lot of places since then. And koalas aren’t bears.” I thought of how many times I’ve been told that in person or blog comments or social media posts.

Koalas aren't bears and orcas aren't whales

“What are they then?” she asked.

“Marsupials. Like kangaroos.” I stopped at a red light and glanced at her quickly, catching the puzzled look on her face.

“They don’t look like kangaroos,” she said.

“I know, but they have pouches for their babies like kangaroos do, so they’re marsupials.”

“I don’t think so,” she said decisively.

“It’s like orcas. Remember when we did our whale watching trip and learned that orcas aren’t whales? They’re really related to dolphins, right? But because they are big and look like whales, people called them whales for a long time. And now we’re learning that they’re really more like dolphins. It’s the same with koalas. Because they look like bears, people called them koala bears, but now we know that they’re really marsupials, not bears.”


I step on the gas as the light turns green. There’s silence in the truck for a minute as Sunshine processes my answer. I wait for the next question to come.

“I believe you about the whales,” she says seriously, “but not the koalas. I think they’re still bears.”

Conversations like this make me smile. And make a mental note to look up “koalas” and “marsupials” in her Encyclopedia (which is hopefully new enough to back me up!) and perhaps even plan a homeschool unit study for her… 🙂

Do your kids still believe you know all the answers?

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  1. Amanda Matheny November 5, 2014
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