It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
Is curiosity a skill which must be taught and nurtured?
Perhaps it is an innate characteristic of being human?
Is curiosity best left to its natural state of questioning?
I believe it’s predominantly innate, yet at times needs a little extra nurturing. However, our society, especially that of formal education, rarely rewards curiosity in children. Adults dictate when and what children should think about and when and where they should be most hours of the day.
Adults have done all the thinking for them.
Those same adults then sit around wringing their hands and devising lesson plans about curiosity and critical thinking. Perhaps we should first do our best not to deaden the natural curiosity present in children?
If for some reason you’ve decided you would rather not have a curious child, here are six surefire ways to kill, or at least minimize your child’s natural curiosity.
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Overscheduling seems more prevalent than ever before, as a society we want our children to do all the things and be “well-rounded.” Or we want to give them every opportunity to meet their “full potential” in a particular activity. Travel sports teams anyone? What we’re left with is an exhausted kid and family with little time to reflect and absorb.
Curiosity takes time, it may even require a little boredom, but if we never have a moment to reflect how can we ever wonder, marvel, and ask questions? Everyone needs downtime, even children.
Shutting Down Questions
I just want to make dinner, and my nine-year-old is asking me the 4,359th question of the day. Seriously. They never stop coming from this child, and I try to answer with a positive attitude, but at times I fail.
However, asking questions is healthy and conducive to developing a curious mind. We need to explain what we can and admit when we don’t have an answer. Not knowing is the perfect opportunity to show our children how to research and find solutions.
If we shut down questions frequently, they will stop asking, and that is not the path to encouraging curiosity. We want them to keep asking those questions and trying new ideas, even when we would rather be making dinner in peace.
Making Everything a “Teachable Moment”
Homeschool parents can fall quickly into the trap of seizing upon everything as a teachable moment They’re learning all the time, right, so we need to be ready and on our toes.
No, just stop. Sometimes you might just need to enjoy the history museum without the homeschool mom lecture about Manifest Destiny.
It will be ok, and they’ll still benefit from the visit.
Over-explaining can be another method of shutting down questions. We sometimes give our children a lot more information than they were asking for. We see any question as the opportunity to unload a mound of information we’ve been waiting to bestow upon them.
Our goal should be to provide them with the information requested but leave them something to wonder about and perhaps their curiosity will grow.
Your son loves Minecraft, so won’t this excellent Minecraft math curriculum get him to like math? Your daughter is all about princesses, so won’t she be so excited about these princess alphabet printables?
Slow down a minute; this might not be the greatest idea.
Do we think they’re that easily manipulated?
They typically see right through this ploy; it’s still math. Let’s say you love to knit, would you do random math problems just because they used numbers of skeins and stitches per inch? I don’t think so.
Let’s not co-opt their interests and try to make them “educational.” Homeschool moms are masters of the rabbit trail and the unit study. However, if every time our children express an interest in a subject we look for ways to make it “count,” they’ll soon learn to keep their mouths shut.
Following a child’s interests is an area where homeschoolers shine.
In school, a child rarely gets a say in what he’ll do or learn on a given day or even the whole year, but we can follow our child’s interests and reevaluate as those interests change.
Dictating what a child must be interested in all the time will eventually lead them to stop thinking for themselves. They’ll wait for instructions on what to do, and then everyone laments their lack of initiative.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are also those who wish to give their children what they didn’t have. Playing the piano was their dream, and now they’re hoping to see that fulfilled through their child. Instead of forcing piano on an unwilling student, get lessons for yourself.
Seeing an adult work, especially their parent, work toward a personal goal will have a greater impact on a child than demanding they meet goals prescribed by others.
Valuing Certain Interests over Others
Every mom could brag about their child’s chess prowess and be validated by society, yet cringe when a child pulls out their Shopkin or Pokemon collection.
Are some interests and activities more valuable than others? Probably so, particularly since as an adult some activities can have dire consequences. A 10-year-olds love of Shopkins will probably not ruin her life.
Let’s try to keep a little perspective. Obviously, we don’t want our children spending too much time on activities detrimental to their health and well-being, but lets not immediately criticize interests we don’t quite understand.
So there are six ways to kill your child’s curiosity. What do you think? Does curiosity need to be taught or just protected?
I believe most people are curious, although obviously about different things. The most important aspect for us as parents is to create an environment that doesn’t hinder but instead supports and nurtures the natural curiosity of all people.