ASKING QUESTIONS INCREASES OUR CHILDREN’S LEARNING AND AGENCY IN THE WORLD

Kelsey Reed • 03/02/2023
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We have all witnessed something like this in our lives: A small child on a playground or in a yard disdains the playground equipment or toy in front of him, turning instead to the bug or turtle or other fascinating object that utterly consumes his attention. You can almost imagine what’s going on in the gray matter—the neurons firing rapidly with unspoken questions:

What IS this thing? How does it work? Why does it curl up/hide/fly away when I come near? (or) Where did it keep its wings? (or) Why is it slimy? Shiny? Stinky? Loud? Colorful? What does it eat? When does it sleep? What else can I get it to do? 

A child’s mind is made for inquiry. In spite of pedagogical trends which operate out of the assumption that children are empty vessels that need to be filled with content, mere moments of observing a child-learner in operation proves those conclusions false. One wonders if such educational theorists and psychologists ever experienced children. These are curious, motivated, problem-solvers!

Refreshingly, educators as familiar to us as Charlotte Mason remind us that children naturally engage with curiosity—subjecting the world around them to their powers of appreciative inquiry. Educational theorist Malcolm Knowles argues that pedagogy (or methods and practices in teaching, often specifically indicating children [Greek root “ped” = child]) and “andragogy” (method and practice of teaching adult learners) should reflect one another more closely.

All learners (adult and child alike):

  • are both active and dependent in their self-development.
  • have their own interests and a need for curriculum/content to be provided.
  • learn from and with their peers [shared experience] and from an authority/expert [teacher’s experience].
  • can solve problems now as well as learn tools to apply.
  • benefit from internal and external motivators.
  • need to know why.

In the example of a child at play above, we recognized that a learner naturally churns through questions which drive their observations. It is a piteous state when we lose the ability to ask questions. It is the privilege of the adult learner/teacher in the room to continue to fan the flame of inquiry for young children all the way through to young adults in hopes that they will bring that practice to maturity. In the interplay between the child (learner) and adult (teacher), the benefit of the experienced adult is in his or her ability to help a child put words to internal questions and observations, solidifying the meaningfulness of interrogative practice.

For the child/learner/disciple: When we ask questions of the child, the child learns to broaden his or her thinking. The child learns that inquiry is good, that the world is knowable, and that God wants to be known.

For the parent/teacher/discipler: Asking questions allows us to gently probe the mind and heart. The answer the child in front of us gives provides insight, giving us a glimpse of what that little one thinks, believes, or feels. When we ask a question, we learn others’ presuppositions or areas that require further formation. When we put ourselves in the place of the learner (in asking questions), we model that learning is good and that we (humans) don’t and can’t know it all . . . but that we have the privilege to grow in our knowing, thinking, feeling, doing.

The Father wants us to seek after Him—He longs for us to long for Him. When we ask our children (and ourselves!) questions, we supply what we need to confidently and curiously pursue the heart of the Father, learning His loving intentions for us: His agents within the world. 


Try these practices with your kids and teens: While listening to music or media in the car, hiking or playing outside, reading a book, one of our excellent magazines or the Bible, playing a game or video game, watching a movie or TV show—each of these offers a learning opportunity—employ the beautiful and effective tool of the question to draw out the learning:

  • Instruct everyone to stay quiet for 5-10 minutes (depending on child’s age). Then ask:
    • What did you see?
    • What did you hear?
    • What did you smell? Etc.
  • What did you learn when you were quiet enough to pay attention to your senses?
  • What did you notice in the story we just read or heard? The song that just played? The movie you just watched?
  • What was the most important message/idea they were trying to communicate?
  • Why do you think it happened that way? What is another way it could have happened?
  • How do the observations we made help us to understand something more about God, ourselves, or the world that He made?
  • What is a godly way to respond (i.e. worship, prayer, lament, anger, service, awe, etc. . . .)?

 Parents, teachers, mentors of kids and teens: The Lord has designed the world as our classroom. The Master Teacher guides us through the curriculum by His strong and tender hand. Let us, then, with confident curiosity go inquire, explore, discover together for His glory!

Questions? Comments? Email the me. at kreed@wng.org. —I'm listening!

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