Posted by: Kate | February 3, 2009

The One Lesson

At my son’s school I have a reading group three mornings a week, working with eight grade 2 students. And if there is one thing I hope to help those kids learn it would be this:

We never know all the answers, so knowing how to ask a question is important.

I see this especially in their reading. We’ll be reading along and we’ll come to a great description. Perhaps a shabby room, or a loud shirt. They read the words and continue. I stop them, and ask what they think it means …. and I am met with blank stares. So we talk about what it might mean, what it does mean, why the author chose it. And next time we come to a description of some loud Bermuda shorts they all laugh and say I bet they’re really bright!

I have taught my son that it is never a bad thing to ask. Whether you are asking what a word means, how to pronounce it, or a fact about a planet … it shows a curious mind and not a lack of knowledge. The best part is when I don’t know the answer, and we go look it up together. Or when he sees me look up a word when I’m reading something.

We need to teach our children not just to read, or do math, or spell. We need to teach them to ask questions.



  1. Such an important lesson. I’m struggling to remind my 13 YO of that now. He hits a point in his homework where he doesn’t understand something–and he just shuts down. I’ve tried to explain that both his teachers and his parents really, really want him to succeed, and no one will ever be mad if he asks questions. I’m having a hard time getting that through to him. Odd, because for non-schoolwork things, he’ll ask me anything.

  2. One of the first lessons I learned as a homeschooling parent was that I did not need to know all of the answers. I needed to know where to go to find them, and then teach those skills to my kids. Once they grasped that information was something to go look for, not sit and wait to seep into their brains, they were set for life.

  3. Absolutely. I teach at the university level… and I still get those blank stares. What does this mean? Why do we do one procedure before another in a lab? In fact, questioning, and encouraging questions, has become a key feature of my fledgling ‘teaching style’.

  4. Here here! I regularly share my wonderings with my students. Perhaps if they know I ask questions and wonder about things EVERY day – they will, too.

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