Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Parenting Thoughts: Teach A Child To Question


When a pre-schooler takes a look at a picture, say of a polar bear, he will most likely say/think 'Oh it's a polar bear! It is white'. This is it. 

How many kids will ask himself more? How many will wonder 'Why is the polar bear white? To camouflage? Why? Is it related to other bears? Is it a mammal? Where does it live? What does it eat? How does it catch its food? Can it survive elsewhere? Does it live alone? Why and why not?' etc etc.... 

Leave a child with minimal nurturing and the child will develop in many areas 'when the time is right'. All kids (without developmental problems) will reach his developmental milestones at some point in life anyway. Some may take longer to gain proficiency on his own, hence losing the opportunity to gain some headstart advantage, especially in the precious first six years when brain grows at the most amazing rate.

However, there is one area, amongst a few others, which I view as MOST important to lend some support to - developing Thinking and Questioning Skills. 

With the exception of the minority cohort of exceptionally gifted kids, most kids will NOT develop far in this department on his own without some help. Of course, one learns with age. The question is always at what rate. Is it good enough to wait till the child is 12 years old to wonder more about the polar bear (or anything, for that matter)? Will it make a difference in this same child's learning process if he started wondering MORE when he was only 4 years old? 

To me, teaching my boys to think and enquire is one of the MOST important goals. It is never about just learning content. It is ALWAYS about teaching them to become lateral and vertical thinkers and encouraging inquisitiveness. 

Give a child a question and he enquires for a day. 
Teach a child how to question, and he enquires for a lifetime.

Take the example I mentioned about polar bear. Marcus is definitely thinking more like this now.

When he comes across an unfamiliar creature or subject matter while reading on his own, his curiosity lies beyond what he sees in the picture. He doesn't always ask all his questions straightaway anymore, like how he used to. He is beginning to process the questions a lot more, thinking more about his own questions (the process of thinking about thinking). He reflects on current knowledge before producing calculated guesses to the questions he has. And when he has no answers, he seeks them.

My 3 y.o. doesn't think quite like this yet, but there is the age difference to consider. However, he is associating information in a fascinating manner, which is neat progress towards the goal.

Recently, when we were talking about carnivorous animals that live near or in the sea, he volunteered, entirely without any prompting from me or Marcus, 

'.... just like polar bears, you know... they hunt for seals and walruses. Brown bears are very good swimmers. They go fishing for salmon. But brown bears don't live near polar bears. Polar bears live at the North Pole. Very cold there! But polar bears have thick fur to protect him. So he stays warm.'

I must admit I was really thrilled to hear his little speech there. Just as excited and encouraged by how my son is progressing in the 'thinking' department. 

There is still much to be done with both, but I always get a great adrenalin rush to see improvements. 

4 comments:

A is For Amanda said...

Hi,I am just wondering. How do u raise an inquisitive child?

vegepiglet said...

OMG! I am thrilled too!

Domesticgoddess said...

Hi A is for Amanda

I think how we communicate with our kids and our coaching style makes a big difference. I wrote about it before in a post

http://domesticgoddess-ourworldmyworld.blogspot.com/2009/02/non-stop-questioning.html

Instead of teaching content by plain drilling, or repeating questions and insisting on answers, or testing a child repeatedly, which I think is not the most effective way but nonetheless a very common way, I introduce content using the transdisciplinary thematic method and facilitate the learning process. The focus is on teaching the child HOW to learn, so that he is actively involved in the learning.

Children are hungry to learn at a young age if we provide them the stimulation and opportunities in the right manner.

As what Dr. Maria Montessori concluded that a young child's mind is like a sponge - she called it "the absorbent mind." And because it is so absorbent, Montessori called the first six years "the most important period of life; the time when intelligence, man's greatest tool, is being formed."

When we present a young child with abstract materials, interesting content delivered in a manner that is respectful, meaningful and relevant to a child, the child will naturally be curious and want to learn it. :) It is a process that takes time to bear fruits. From tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow. :)

You will experience it for yourself when you attend the lapbooking class with Amanda in January. :)

Domesticgoddess said...

Vegepiglet, follow the method and you will see Elaine associating content VERY SOON! :)

Especially since she loves the lapbooking class so much as you described in your email. :)

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