Don’t ignore the questions, they are where learning happens

Last week was spring break here in Michigan. I got to spend the week with my three wonderful children. My oldest son (9), Griffin, loves animals so we spent time at 2 zoos and a The Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI. I began to notice Griffin asking questions. Not one or two but hundreds, to anyone and everyone who would listen. Griffin wanted to know everything about the animals. What they ate, how old, names, how to handle, etc. Griffin has also been inquisitive when it comes to animals. At 2 all he would watch on TV was a 45-minute video tour of the San Diego Zoo. He wants to go to the Detroit Zoo, everyday he doesn’t have school. We have been there in the snow and rain just to appease his interests. I did not think much of the animal questions. When locations changed the questions didn’t stop.

We visited two of my favorite breweries in Michigan, Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids and New Holland Brewing Company in Holland. Griffin wanted to have me explain all about how beer is brewed and how all the equipment was used. He started quizzing me on the differences in the styles of beer. “Why so many?” “Why do they look different colors?” at Brewery Vivant he wanted to know “Why is it in a church?” I spent time explaining how the brewery was built, in an old funeral home and the owner felt the old chapel would make a great area for the bar and seating area. Why did Griffin need to know about beer? The Brewery? He was curious. Didn’t need to know any of the information. It was assigned to him. He did need to fill out a worksheet. He was curious and asking questions to fill his inner need for knowledge. He was learning. On his own. I was feeling proud.

Why weren’t my middle school students as curious as my nine-year old? Why don’t they come in full of questions? Looking around a restaurant later, I noticed most families aren’t talking while eating. Parents are on smartphones or devouring food. Kids are on their wireless devices or being ignored as they do things kids do. Do adults ignore or dismiss children’s questions and kill the learning spirit of youth?

Sitting watching the NCAA Basketball Tourney, Griffin began bombarding me with questions again. Wanting to know where colleges are located, where games are being played, why teams are in their home uniforms when not playing at home. He noticed details most would not see. “Why is there a 4 in front of Michigan?” I was sort of annoyed at this point wanting to watch the game. “Griffin they are a 4 seed.” Griffin looked puzzled, he had no idea what seeds meant. Amy, my wife, noticing my growing frustration addressed Griffin, “Leave dad alone, just watch the game.” Pulling my mind away from the game, I realized I was ignoring him. I was frustrated by my sons curiosity? Oh NO!! I was killing is ability to question and hindering his learning. Quickly, I smiled at my son, “Good question!” Then I continued to explain seeding and the tournament set-up.

Had I done this before with my son? I hope not but if it happened once, it probably happened before. I now have to be care not to discourage by son’s learning and questioning. This is where his learning happens. Don’t be a fool like me and kill your child’s passion for knowledge. Listen to them carefully. Take time to answer their questions. Help them learn and grow. I hope Griffin’s questioning nature last to middle school and beyond!