Homeschool Priorities Part 4: Teaching him how to find answers

My third homeschool priority is teaching my children how to find answers to their questions.  Right now this applies to my five-year-old since my two-year-old doesn’t have many questions yet, but he follows along.

This is an idea I have to credit to Lori of Camp Creek Blog and my source for learning about project-based homeschooling.  When I wrote my columns about project-based learning, she emphasized that it’s important to show children how to look for answers, and more importantly, encourage them to ask questions.

I know I encourage my son to ask questions because I never discourage them, and I always give him as detailed an answer as possible.  When I don’t know the answer, I tell him it’s a great question and we’ll have to look it up at such and such time. (He rarely asks a question when it’s convenient to find the answer.)  I tell him, “Keep asking these great questions!”

As Lori suggested, I tried keeping a notepad handy and jotting down his questions, but that just didn’t stick.  It also doesn’t help that he usually asks wonderful questions while I’m driving the car, especially when we’re coming home from someplace and I’m exhausted.  But even if I know we’ll probably forget about it, I always say we can look that up later.  At the very least he knows I honor I his curiosity.

One thing Lori suggests, which is a great idea, but I often forget to do it, is to ask, “Where do you think we could find the answer to that?”  Usually he answers “the computer,” but he did surprise me once by suggesting another resource we had on our shelves: some cards with pictures and facts about animals.

Here are some things I do and plan to do as I move forth and try to keep my memory from lagging!

  • Before going to the library, I ask him what kind of books he might like to check out. He usually picks topics about questions he’s recently asked me. (This attests to the fact that children do have good memories when they are interested in something!)
    • In addition to this, when we’re at the library, I encourage him to ask the librarian for the books he wants.
  • I want him to learn that he can turn to people for answers.  For example:
    • As we begin history lessons (I haven’t done this yet), my son will have a great resource: his father who is a history professor.
    • Currently, my son is fascinated with snakes. One of my best friends is a herpetologist, so I’m going to propose to my son that we write her a letter with a list of questions that he might have. (If this works out, I’ll be sure to blog about it.)
    • As he develops more interests, I hope to tap into our network of friends, relatives or the community, if possible. (This can also be called socializing!)
  • Some of his questions might be answered by acting like a scientist: observing, experimenting, using all of his senses, etc..  That is, whenever possible, I need to remember to help him find other ways of answering questions and not always supply quick answers or resources.
  • In the future, I plan to teach my son what online sources are reputable and to be aware that not everything we read may be accurate.
    • Now as we explore the web together, I’m sorting and bookmarking certain web pages on his computer.  This may help with that.
  • Last but not least, I remind my son about the books and resources we have at home.
    • For example, when he had a question about clouds, I reminded him that we had a book about clouds, and we got it and read it right then.
    • I am not opposed to looking on Netflix and seeing if they have some kind of show or documentary about his topic of choice.  I think educational television is a wonderful resource, especially for auditory/visual learners, which I think applies to my five-year-old.  He amazes me how he’ll sit and watch a long documentary that is intended for an adult audience.  He may not grasp all of it, but his curiosity keeps him interested.

Please give me more ideas.  How do you teach your children how to find answers for themselves?

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