Questions Enhance Learning

May I ask you a question? As a mom, I’ve very good at doing that!

“Are you up yet?”
“Do you need some help?”
“Why did you leave that here?”
“Is your throat sore?”
“When will you be back?”
“Do you call that clean?”

After homeschooling for more than a decade, I’ve discovered that questions have immense power. Questions can identify the most important concept under discussion. Questions can guide a student as he processes a new idea. Questions can propel a student toward a new thought or application. As I have learned to ask better questions, my own students have become more able learners. The power of a good question aptly posed, is valuable at every stage.

When my children were little, I discovered that good questions helped them focus. Have you noticed that preschoolers enjoy telling stories? My kiddos could derail a lesson plan faster than I could draw a deep breath some days. However, if I asked them questions about what we were learning, they got to “tell me stuff” and stay on topic! When we began to work on memory work, a good question was the prompt they needed to remember what they had learned. A good question helped them to recall the names, dates, places, and vocabulary that formed the strong foundation of knowledge they were amassing. They appreciated the questions then because the questions reminded them of what they knew.

As our children grew, my questions changed. The queries I posed were often designed to throw them off balance or to challenge them to think about something more deeply than they had previously. My questions forced them to make associations we had not explicitly discussed; they had to put information together in new ways. Sometimes my pointed questions were simply to illustrate that the child did know the answer, he or she just didn’t realize it yet!

Oftentimes, my questions were not well received initially. It can be uncomfortable to have your status quo challenged! However, the kids found it increasingly exhilarating to discover a new depth of understanding in their studies. The light bulb moments were a joy for all of us as we began to understand the “whys” and “hows” of history, science, and literature. They appreciated the questions then because they revealed new depths of understanding.

Now, as I shepherd my youngest child through high school, my questions have a new purpose. My questions are more open-ended; I want to know what she’s thinking, what fresh insight the years of homeschooling have incubated. I want to watch another thinker apply truth to new subjects or make that leap to a totally new idea. My children appreciate the questions now because they provide freedom. Wisdom is found in applying the understanding of what has been learned. How wonderful to be able to help them make the connections between everything they’ve learned through the years and how that applies to what they need to know for their future pursuits!

Such is the power of a question.

This article was contributed by Lisa Bailey.

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