Let’s Stay Curious and Encourage Our Kids to do the Same

In A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer tells us how staying curious has enriched his life and helped his career. While the intended audience is definitely not homeschool educators, we can take a lot of inspiration from it.

He writes, “we live at a moment in time that should be a “golden age of curiosity.” As individuals, we have access to more information more quickly than anyone has ever had before. Some places are taking advantage of this in big ways—companies in Silicon Valley are a vivid and instructive example. The energy and creativity of entrepreneurs comes from asking questions—questions like ‘What’s next?’ and ‘Why can’t we do it this way?’”

This Should Be The Age of Curiosity 

We can do things to stay curious and hopefully bring on this age. Here is one of those ways . . .

Don’t Brush Aside Questions

“To some, questions like these feel challenging, even more so if you don’t know the answers. Rather than answering them, the adult simply asserts his own authority to brush them aside. Curiosity can make us adults feel a little inadequate or impatient—that’s the experience of the parent who doesn’t know why the sky is blue, the experience of the teacher trying to get through the day’s lesson without being derailed.

The child who feels free to ask why the sky is blue grows into the adult who asks more disruptive questions: Why am I the serf and you the king? Does the sun really revolve around Earth? Why are people with dark skin slaves and people with light skin their masters?”

As teachers and parents we can help encourage questions and make sure we don’t brush them aside.

Teachers Need to Cultivate Them

“The classroom should be a vineyard of questions, a place to cultivate them, to learn both how to ask them and how to chase down the answers. Some classrooms are. But in fact, curiosity is often treated with the same regard in school as it was in the Garden of Eden. Especially with the recent proliferation of standardized testing, questions can derail the lockstep framework of the day’s lesson plan; sometimes teachers don’t know the answers themselves. It’s exactly the opposite of what you would hope, but authentic curiosity in a typical seventh-grade classroom isn’t cultivated—because it’s inconvenient and disruptive to the orderly running of the class.”

Unfortunately, teachers are always rushing against time and trying to deliver a curriculum that is almost impossible to get through in the course of a year. As homeschoolers we are not bound by a curriculum and can create a culture of curiosity in our homes that will serve our children well and set them up for bright futures. Public schools simply cannot do this.

Curiosity is the Answer

“Here’s the remarkable thing. Curiosity isn’t just a great tool for improving your own life and happiness, your ability to win a great job or a great spouse.

It is the key to the things we say we value most in the modern world: independence, self-determination, self-government, self-improvement.

Curiosity is the path to freedom itself. The ability to ask any question embodies two things: the freedom to go chase the answer, and the ability to challenge authority, to ask, ‘How come you’re in charge?’ Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage.”

School Does Not Allow For Creative Thought

“For years, I struggled in school. I wasn’t that good at sitting quietly, tucked into a little desk, following a bell schedule and filling out worksheets. That binary way of learning—either you know the answer or you don’t—didn’t fit my brain and didn’t appeal to me. I’ve always felt like ideas come from all corners of my brain, and I felt that way even as a kid.

I did well in college, but only because by then I had figured out some tricks to succeeding in that environment. But the huge classes and impersonal homework assignments didn’t excite me. I didn’t learn that much. I was headed to law school because I had gotten in, and because I wasn’t quite sure what else to do. I did at least have some idea of what it meant to be a lawyer—although, frankly, it seemed a lot like a life sentence to yet more homework assignments, assuming I passed the bar exam.”

I know from first hand experience that kids figure out the system of school. I have seen students in high school who have never read a full book. Not one. They know how to get enough information from the Internet to fake it, pass tests, and even write book reports. As a student, I even figured out tricks to get by without having to put in my full effort/ It was hard to care about the work I had to do. I crammed for tests and immediately forgot everything the moment I left the exam room. It wasn’t ideal, but we all do these things in the name of learning when it is anything but.

Use Questions to Inspire and Transmit Values

“If you work with talented people who want to do the work they are doing, then they’ll want to step up. But it’s a simple quality of human nature that people prefer to choose to do things rather than be ordered to do them. In fact, as soon as you tell me I have to do something—give a speech, attend a banquet, go to Cannes—I immediately start looking for ways to avoid doing it. If you invite me to do something, I’m much more likely to want to do it.

I am, of course, communicating what I want. But I’m leaving them the choice. They know what I want, but they have free will. They can say no.

I’ve discovered another unexpected characteristic of using questions: they transmit values. In fact, questions can quietly transmit values more powerfully than a direct statement telling people what you want them to stand for, or exhorting them about what you want them to stand for.

Questions create both the authority in people to come up with ideas and take action, and the responsibility for moving things forward.

Questions create the space for all kinds of ideas, and the sparks to come up with those ideas.

Most important, questions send a very clear message: we’re willing to listen, even to ideas or suggestions or problems we weren’t expecting.

People are more likely to consider a piece of advice, or a flat-out instruction, if they’ve asked for it in the first place.”

I’m Inspired, Are You? 

This book has been inspiring and it has sent me on a path to transforming the way I educate my son and operate my homeschooling business. It’s well worth your time to read it in full.