Teaching kids to question

Posted on January 15, 2012 by

I’m in my second year of teaching a class of homeschoolers in addition to teaching my own children at home, and I’ve again been struck by the sheer inefficiency of teaching them. Not inefficient from the aspect of time, as we get a remarkable amount done in the limited time we have allotted to us. The children, if young and rambunctious, are generally attentive and well-meaning, and the occasional call to order or jog around the classroom is enough to settle them down.

No, the inefficiency arises in their habit of disrupting my lessons by peppering me with questions. Now, in a normal school the teacher asks questions and the students answer (or hide out in the back in an attempt to avoid being noticed). Not so in our classroom. The students all crowd toward the front and I attempt to slog through the material I have carefully planned. I am regularly interrupted by a hand eagerly raised, often accompanied by the traditional, “Oooh, ooh, ooh! I have a question! I have a question!” Derailments are the name of the game here.

“Why is it el agua instead of la agua? Agua ends with an a!” I patiently explain my canned answer, “Because it’s an exception to the rule.” Hands shoot up around the room, everyone is leaning forward in their seats, waving their hands around, and cooing. “But why is it an exception?” “Are there any other exceptions like that?” “And what’s with the irregular verbs? Did they change them for the same reason?” And etc. Fifteen minutes later we return to the planned lesson in time for me to assign the homework and fall exhausted back into my chair as they all run out, chattering about the oddities of Spanish.

“Because I said” so is never enough for them and they get increasingly skeptical (but not cynical) as they age. By the time I’m teaching rhetoric to the seniors, I have my work cut out for me. This is a good thing. There is an old German proverb that, “He who questions, leads,” and I have found that to be generally true. We are forming leaders, not slaves. America already has enough mindless slaves.

You may say, “If you are letting them disrupt the lessons, you aren’t teaching them anything!” Well, the results speak for themselves. Children that are actively engaged in their learning soak up the information as if through osmosis, and these children are studious enough to catch up on whatever they have missed on their own time. At any rate, to ask such a question is to miss the entire point of homeschooling: teaching them right-thinking is the main goal of every lesson.

Posted in: Education