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The Luxury of Questioning

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Children are by nature curious beings. From the moment they are born they are surrounded by an endless stream of stimuli which fascinate or confuse them. Over the very short period of a couple of years they learn to recognize faces, objects and sounds, and their own existence among the world around them. Eventually, children begin to mimic adults and older siblings in their communication with one another, and the young children begin to pick up words, which initially represent nothing more than objects or actions, but eventually provide them with the means to form sentences to express their thoughts, communicate with others, and develop basic concepts (such as ice is cold). Through language, they are able to use existing concepts to better understand the world through further removed and abstract concepts (for example, apple being a fruit, or Red Delicious being a type of apple).

As children continue to develop, they lean on the adults in their lives in an effort to understand the world around them.  In their state of constant exploration and learning these children sometimes wear out their parents with incessant questions, leaving the children with more questions than answers. Fortunately, parents have tremendous endurance when it comes to their own children.  Through the parents’ answers and explanations, and their own questions (e.g., “why do you think so, son?”, “how can we find the answer to your question?”), the children continue to learn, develop their cognitive abilities, and strengthen their desire for knowledge.

At home, children have the luxury of questioning, which keeps the door of learning wide open.  Unfortunately, most parents don’t allow their children to stay at home during the “school years”, and instead send them off to government or private schools where questioning becomes a seldom allowed privilege.  Principals and teachers are most concerned with command and control, not education. This has many terrible negative effects on children. It makes them meek and servile. It crushes their independence and initiative. It weakens the desire to seek out answers to questions – weakening the love for learning that is inherent in all children. And it thwarts their intellectual development.

On virtually all meaningful measures, homeschooling is the superior option to standard schooling, public or private.  Sure, public schools do have some advantages (to some people) such as providing “free” child care, allowing parents to outsource the responsibility of parenting to others so they can earn more money, or creating a docile populace which will do the government’s bidding, but none of those so-called advantages benefit the child. When it comes to the child’s intellectual and academic achievement, or their personal and moral development, the luxury of questioning is critical to growth, and the luxury of questioning does not exist in a standard school environment.

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6 Responses to " The Luxury of Questioning "

  1. Kay says:

    I understand the appeal of homeschooling, but for many, it is not an option. Further, all public education is not bad, as involvement from parents is essential no matter where your child attends school. My child attends public school where conditions are not perfect, but life is not perfect either. Children will learn lessons in school – with parental guidance – that they would not otherwise learn being homeschooled.

    As well, I teach at an independent school. Being part of the admissions process, we see many homeschooled children apply. Most of those children do not get accepted because homeschooling curriculums just aren’t rigorous enough, while we have many public school students admitted.

    I don’t think wholesale denunciation of public education is fair. Parents can instill in their children curiosity at home, and it can continue at home, even if they’re not able to have their curiosity nurtured at school. It’s up to the parents. We create in them the desire to learn. We continue to work with them at home. It can be done.

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      Kay, homeschooling is an option for all. Some people just choose not to take that option. I won’t spend time judging each person who chooses not to homeschool, but it is a choice.

      Virtually all public education is bad. There are select magnet schools in select cities which do a mediocre job of helping select children reach their potential – but their success is usually more a factor of the selectivity of the school than anything else – making it unlike public school as we understand it. Yes, involvement from parents helps, yet no parent is as involved as a homeschool parent – hence the vastly superior outcomes of homeschooling.

      Your anecdotal experience on the admissions staff of an independent school runs counter to the experience of admissions staffs throughout the country. Not all homeschool students stick to “homeschool curriculum”, nor are public school curricula in any way “rigorous”.

      Yes, parents can instill in their children curiosity at home, which then gets destroyed for 6.5 hours a day at public school. It is easier to allow curiosity to flourish, than it is to try to instill it after it has been destroyed.

      Good luck raising your kids when you aren’t allowing others to raise your kids during the school day.

  2. Kay says:

    What a shame, and what a closed-minded view. Can’t have a conversation with people like you. What a waste of time.

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      Close-minded is ignoring reality, making up things from the gut, and convincing oneself that doing the same thing as everyone else will yield different results.

  3. Amy says:

    One of my favorite things is when my children ask me a question I don’t know the answer to. There is something so rewarding in finding the answer together. I also think it is a valuable lesson for them to know that mommy doesn’t know everything and that learning happens at every age. Learning is lifelong and curiosity is a valuable trait!

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      I agree, Amy! Learning is lifelong, and we shouldn’t be closing the doors of learning on our kids.

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