Today I read an article that got me thinking about my very early educational philosophy. This New York Times piece explains research on the way that babies are innately curious and spend most of their time working to figure out the world. Anyone who has watched a small child learn to walk knows that direct instruction isn't particularly useful. "Just balance more on your left leg!" They see many of us doing this thing that feels appealing, and work hard to practice the process, improving their attempts along the way. We don't generally spend a lot of time giving "lessons" to babies.
I wonder what we can learn from inspiring that youthful curiosity that can last later into life. How can we encourage wonder in elementary school? In what ways can we encourage kids to continue questioning and finding ways to answer their own questions? Justin Lanier called it the "Mathematical Give a Damn."
I was homeschooled throughout most of elementary school. Many people ask me "who taught you, your mom or your dad?" They both certainly helped to answer my questions, but really neither of them "taught me" in the traditional sense. I went to the library a lot. We had lots of friends who did interesting things. I read a ton. I made stuff. I created lots of games. I sorted and organized things. I spent time outside. In general, no one told me that my curiosity was anything but magical and useful.
Now, I work in a school setting--a pretty awesome alternative school setting, but a formal school certainly. I often think about how to reconcile my inquiry-based background with the rigors and structure of an institution.
What can we all do (with our own kids or with young students) to ensure that we are not the ones asking all of the questions? How can we give space for curiosity and wonder? Encourage the asking and the finding out together!