Sunday, April 5, 2009


Who is the tallest mayor? What is the name of a small town in the USA? How much are these Pokemon cards worth? How do male seahorses care for their young? These are some of the questions that have been floating around our house this week, thanks to the "Yahoo Answers" website. Apparently the kids answer and answer random questions and earn a certain amount of points for their answers. They can even earn the "best answer" title, and Ben prides himself on getting "best answer" on 70% of his answers. He said, "the funny thing is, Mom, I get voted best answers for the shortest answers. When I try to explain the answer I get 'thumbs down.' I think people like you to just get to the point."

Ben's observation got me thinking about questions and answers. One of the main ways in which my children learn is through questions and answers. Because we do not use formal curriculum, I depend on their curiosity to lead them to questions which in turn leads them to answers( and the exciting learning quest sandwiched in between!). Lately I have actually been thinking about the whole question and answer process quite a bit because of an article I read by Naomi Aldort called "The Case Against Teaching."***

Just the title of the article piqued my interest, and I was curious to see what Aldort had to say. To sum it up, Aldort claims that well meaning parents and friends, in an effort to educate children, have what she terms"teacheria." Teacheria is "the drive to give lessons." I was taken aback by this accusation, of sorts, as I imagine any good parents want to "teach" their children and should teach their children.

On reading the article I realized that Aldort is all for parents learning and participating in the process of growth with their children. She says, "Knowledge does not of its own bring happiness, especially when it is not freely acquired. Grow a garden, play music, listen, hike, travel, sing, read, connect, love and laugh. Be the teacher of joy, generosity and gratitude by living these qualities." The education of children, however, should be proceess rather than product oriented.

Back to the question and answer idea. In this same article, Aldort discusses how children's questions should be answered. She proposes that a child's question does not invite a lengthy, in depth answer: "Train yourself to answer only the question asked." She goes on: "children's interests are rarely their passions and they only want the minimal answers. When it's a child's passion, you will know about it as clearly as you know when she wants candy."

Aha! This is the same observation Ben made with the "Yahoo Answers." Just the facts- not a treatise or "interesting" digression into the mechanical underpinnings of how a wheel works (for example). If the conversation happily leads in that direction, go for it! But most of the time children need some one there available to answer questions with quick concise answers. I guess I'll have to find another outlet for all that hard-earned knowledge I can't wait to "share" with my kids.....

***" The Case Against Teaching" by Naomi Aldort; taken from the book "Life Learning"(edited by Wendy Priesnitz), copy. 2008, pgs-165-168