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Curious Kids - The Value of Questions
by Beverley Paine
"The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how to behave when we don't know what to do." John Holt, How Children Fail
"Judge others by their questions rather than by their answers." Voltaire
"Reason can answer questions , but imagination has to ask them." Dr. Ralph Gerard
Do you encourage your children to ask questions? Curious children are quick and enthusiastic learners. Although curiosity is valued it isn't encouraged. Ever wondered why? People find comfort in being similar: this is the cornerstone of socialisation. An unfortunate victim of the need to be more alike than different is the art of asking questions.
From an early age we're discouraged from asking too many questions. Parents will happily and collectively moan about the 'why' stage of their toddler's lives, glad when it is all over and the children are no longer wide-eyed and curious, wanting to know as much as they can about everything they see and touch and feel, having at last conformed to being content with a little knowledge and understanding. We learn early that this is all the intelligence we need to get by and be accepted by those around us.
Few people, even highly successful people, are comfortable asking questions. And most don't ask good questions, those that solicit the information needed. We rarely think through our questions before uttering them, and as a result often wallow around in a mire of miscommunication, needing to ask a series of clarifying questions to get the answers we need.
Children aren't born with the ability to ask quality questions, and parents and education do very little to develop that skill. Our fear of the unknown leads us to do the same things over and over while hoping for a different result. When little children ask the same question it's not because they are hoping for a different answer: it's because they don't have the skills to ask a different question. This could be due to a limited vocabulary or lack of understanding of complex concepts or lack of experience. Instead of finding their repetitious questions tedious, it's our role as parents and educators to help them learn how to ask the questions that are floating about in their heads.
Good questions open doors and move us forward in our learning quickly. Sometimes a question will make an impossible thing possible, or turn a failing situation into a success. Good questions stretch minds and make them grow. And this is what makes learning exciting and fun.
When your child asks 'Why?' instead of offering a quick and easy answer, open up the question. "What made you ask that question?" might lead to the answer the child actually wants. Of course, there are plenty of times when a child needs or is happy with a direct and simple answer.
By learning how to ask useful questions parents can aid the children in encouraging creative and imaginative thought, making inferences and connecting concepts. Thoughtful questions can also help children increase awareness and develop critical thinking processes. In this way we help our children explore deeper levels of knowing, thinking, and understanding.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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