Andres and Sofia, our two grandchildren presently living with us, ask questions non-stop! Why this…how come that…when does…where are…? Sometimes I haven’t finished answering their first question and the second is already flying at me. Annoyed, I ask myself, “Is there no end?”
Then I’m hit with a question that simply flabbergasts me—the depth of the query belies their mere 4 or 5 years of age! In those moments I realize the powerful learning opportunity embedded in children’s questions. It is a spontaneous moment of with great impact. Sadly, it is easily missed in my annoyance.
In my book, HOME-SCHOOL: Why Bother? (Available on Amazon or Kindle) I share the following story.
When asked “Why did you become a scientist?” Isadore Rabi, the 1944 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, shared this humorous anecdote from his childhood.
“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewishmother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today?
But not my mother. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’
That difference, asking good questions, made me become a scientist.”
(As quoted in “Great Minds Start With Questions” in Parents Magazine, September 1993)
Clearly, a child’s question arises from a keen interest momentarily piqued. My window of opportunity is narrow indeed, for his/her little mind flits like a bird to the next point of interest, which is not necessarily related in any way to the previous question. However, if I have answered well, my answer is filed securely in his/her knowledge base and will inevitably emerge at some later date to surprise me.
A concise answer to a good question accelerates learning.
I nurture a whole new level of patience and skill while fielding the barrage of questions shot at me every day!