Sunday, June 2, 2013

Answering their questions

I've had this in the drafts folder for a while now, but only now getting to post it... 

I have a theory which perhaps may sound a little far-fetched: by simply taking the time and effort to try and provide insightful answers to the questions our children ask us, we are helping them complete a large part of their education. 

By doing so, we are achieving several things:

1. The children find that they can ask questions about anything in the world, which is in itself a fuel for further learning. 

2. They also learn that they are important, that their questions aren't brushed aside, but discussed with interest - and a 4-year-old can ask very interesting questions.

 3. Everything becomes an educational opportunity, because little children will ask about many things we take for granted, from Who made the stars to how is it that vinegar can dissolve an egg's shell.

Of course, as this kind of free learning emerges spontaneously, it needs a good deal of unscheduled leisurely time to just hang around, watch and observe, and ask questions. Naturally, sometimes we are busy, and none of us can be available always, all the time... but when we are never available, when we are so overwhelmingly busy that we do things on autopilot even when we are there, it leaves a void in many things - our children's educational opportunities among them.

Around here, the school bus leaves around 7:30 and comes back around 16:00. I have spoken to many stay-at-home mothers who, as of themselves, would love to have their children at home for more hours in a day, and genuinely wonder why a 6-year-old needs an 8-hour school day. Preschoolers in government-funded institutions now have an obligatory extension of their time at preschool until 14:00; such reforms are accepted with relief by the majority of working parents, but the minority of mothers who would like to take their children home early aren't allowed to do so, unless under special circumstances (of course, things may be different in private kindergartens, but not everyone can afford them). 

In Israel, it's really pretty much black and white. Either you send your child to preschool/school, or you don't  - and homeschooling is a very controversial choice here. Once the child is enrolled in school, most of their waking hours belong to it - extending to hours spent at home, because there's also homework to be done. And the lengthening of the school day is painted as an "educational reform" which is in the children's very best interests - disregarding things such as attention span and effectiveness of learning, which by necessity are reduced with the longer school hours. Thus, instead of a concentrated and effective school time, we get a longer time in which learning is diluted, causing boredom and frustration.

Some pictures from the ongoing "learning" around here:
 Two eggs; one is a regular store-bought egg, the other is an egg from the same pack that had been soaked in vinegar until its shell flaked off, and later immersed in water with food coloring. It can bounce on the table like a rubber ball, but be careful because it can also burst!
And one of the Brahma chicks that hatched yesterday, sitting on Shira's lap. 


Mrs. Jones said...

The hours of school you speak of are LONG! Here in the states, the children at the school I work for are here from 730a to 330p! These little ones (K-5) put in an 8 hour day, have a 1-2 hour "commute" to school, and eat 2 out of the three meals here at school! I do think it is too long for some of the smaller children. Our high school students are here from 645a to 245p. I would love to think that there is a better way of doing this. I just hope that by showing them as much love and kindness while they are in my building I can in someway make it a little easier for their day.

Cindy said...

I agree so much with what you said about being available to answer our children's questions. And, how valuable it is to their learning! We have homeschooled for 12 years now, and have found the most learning comes from our time spent together just answering questions and talking. And our children have also learned that mom and dad dont always know the answers, so through that, they have also learned how to seek out answers in other ways by watching where we go to find answers to their questions. I will never forget our very first day of homeschool, with our oldest son (now graduated from our homeschool and about to get married!)...he asked a very good question about the Bible, one I didnt know the answer to. We searched through the Scriptures together, and then we called our pastor on the phone to ask him. That was just the beginning! So many more questions over the years with so many great conversations that have followed!

Amanda said...

I think you are absolutely right about the value of children learning to ask questions. A good friend of mine is an elementary school teacher, and she said one of the biggest challenges she faces is that so many of her students do not know how to learn - they do not know how to ask questions or make objective observations. From what she has seen in her parent/teacher conferences, she believes it has a lot to do with the parents never doing the things with their children that you address in this blog post - not allowing the child questions, not making little experiments in "let's see what happens if we try this..." etc.

Dina said...

Hi there!
These questions are not exactly pertinent to this post, but I couldn't figure out how to email you directly. My older sons are learning in the north in a rural setting where they may keep animals. I noticed that you got pygmy goats. Do you know if they are real pygmies, which are bred for meat, or Nigerian dwarfs, which are bred for milk? We are interested in Nigerian dwarfs. Also, we are interested in buying true Banty chickens (not just little chickens). Have you come across any Banties?

Dina said...

I have really not figured out how to post a comment yet, so I apologize if this is the second time these questions appear; I tried to post a comment a minute ago but didn't see it, so here goes again:
I had noticed you had pygmy goats and wondered if they are pygmies (bred for meat) or Nigerian Dwarfs (bred for milk)?
Also, have you come across any banty chickens - not just small, but true banties? My sons learn in northern Israel and are interested...

Mrs. Anna T said...


You can email me at

I cannot vouchsafe our goats' breed with a 100% certainty, but they have the "meaty" build of pygmies. As far as I know, there are no Nigerian Dwarfs in Israel, at least I haven't encountered any (I'd love to have two or three, if I could find them).

We are into raising bigger chickens (I especially like the big fluffy-feathered ones, Brahmas, Cochins, Orpingtons), but there's a sales board called YAD2 ( where people sell all kinds of poultry (and pretty much everything else). I have encountered ads for Pekins and other Bantams. Your sons might want to look there.

Kim said...

So much learning takes place outside of the classroom! The love of learning begins in the home. I like your egg experiment. My 2.5yrod is just starting to ask why, why, why? I love (most of the time) answering her. She surprises me with just how much she retains!