Saturday, June 8, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

Young children never seem to run out of questions... Why are there birds in so many different colors? Where does the gas go after you put it in the car? Why are toes shorter than fingers? How do fish breathe underwater? Why do people have hair? Where does the wind come from? Some questions make parents smile. Some make them squirm. Some questions leave parents scratching their heads.

There are some parents (and many schools) that think children ask too many questions. Questions can interrupt other tasks. They can cause embarrassment if the wrong questions are asked at the wrong time, or in the wrong place. Sometimes there are questions that seem so nonsensical that they don't deserve an answer.

When my children were young, there were days, when I would tell them, "Enough questions for today. Keep the rest for tomorrow." That usually kept them quiet for about 5 minutes, and then the questions would begin again. Kari, my youngest, usually awoke with a quizzical expression on her face. It seemed that the moment she opened her eyes, she thought of something that was mysterious to her.

Many children stop asking questions as they grow older. Some stop because they are told that it is annoying when they ask too many questions. Others stop because their questions are met with laughter or because they hear comments about the stupidity of their questions. Still others stop because they don't want others to realize there is something they don't know or understand. That's sad, because questions are one of the greatest learning tools we have.

When I think of adults I know, I can only think of a handful who still ask questions. I always enjoy going on a field trip with my friend, Diane. She asks great questions. I learn far more on field trips with her that I do when I am with a non-questioning group.

My friend, Keith, is one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. When someone tells him something interesting that is unfamiliar to him, he doesn't hesitate to ask for more information, and he continues asking questions until he is satisfied that he understands.

Last year, Keith traveled to the western United States with some of his friends. As they were driving through a mountainous area, Keith saw some mountain goats, standing on an incredibly narrow ledge. It amazed him that it was possible for the goats to balance on such a precarious spot. His friends laughed at his amazement. When he asked questions about the goats, they shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads, not understanding why he would even care.

When Keith meets someone for the first time, he takes the time to learn something interesting about that person. He asks questions with genuine sincerity and for the sole purpose of getting to know the person better. He understands that everyone has the potential of teaching him something that he doesn't know.

Another good friend, Kim, mentioned that she and her son, Mitchell enjoy watching films. Often during these films, terms or historical events will be mentioned that are not familiar to them. They quickly note their question, and after the film, spend time researching for more information. Great idea!

Kevin Eikenberry, an Internet learning guru, suggests keeping a learning journal. He indicates that it can be kept on your computer, or you can use a small notebook. In your learning journal, you would jot down any new terms you hear, interesting facts, the titles of books that you want to read, or films you would like to see. You could, also, include the names of people you meet.

Every person you meet has the potential of being a "teacher." Maybe they have an unusual career or hobby. Maybe they have traveled to, or live in a place that you would like to visit. Maybe they have faced a problem in their own lives that you are facing now. What approaches did they try? What worked? What didn't? What would they have done differently? Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse, and jot notes about what you have learned. The act of writing the notes will help you to remember the information.

For your children to be successful, they need to be open to learning new things. Careers, technology, and skills needed in our lives are constantly changing. Learning has to take place every day.

One of the best things you can do for your children is to encourage them to ask questions. You can do this by letting them know when they ask a particularly good question. You can, also, lead by example. Put aside your fears and your shyness and come up with some good questions of your own.

Suggest that your children try keeping a learning journal for 30 days, (doing something for 30 days increases the likelihood that it will become a habit) and keep one for yourself, too. I use a very small spiral-bound notebook (cost – 59¢). In it, I write things I have learned, and things I want to know. I write questions that I need to ask, and great questions that I hear others ask.

One of my favorite teachers in Jr. High, was Mr. Mast. He was a witty man, who used unusual phrases to help us remember what he taught. One thing he used to tell us often, was that we were to "get all we can, can all we get, and sit on the lid," meaning we should learn as much as possible, and store the information in our brains, then find a way to keep it there. One great way to ensure that things you learn stay with you, is to share what you learn with others.

There are so many things we can learn if we are only willing to ask. And just think of how many people can benefit from one person being willing to ask a great question.

Always asking questions,


"One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." ~ Chinese proverb

"To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions." ~ Sam Keen

"No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious." ~ George Bernard Shaw

"The greatest gift is not being afraid to question." ~ Ruby Dee

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