Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Question Board

"Hey, Mom! When was the car invented?"

"Dad, what causes dust?"

"I wonder where the phrase 'driving me nuts' comes from."

"Does anyone know how pencils are made?"

Like all children, my kids are full of questions. Every once in a while, they happen to ask one at a time when we can say, "Hey, let's look that up!" Usually, though, they ask these questions when I'm trying to calm a fussy baby, keep a toddler out of the refrigerator, prod a daydreaming 5-year-old to finish setting the table, and keep the last batch of pancakes from burning.

Of course, even in these all-too-common situations, I make a point of saying, "That's a great question!" Unfortunately, though, I usually have to follow up with "Let's remember to look that up later." Of course, when we finally have a moment to sit down and find the answer, we have nearly always forgotten the question.

And then, a few weeks ago, I had an idea. What if we had a place to write those questions down, so that, when the right moment came, we would remember what we wanted to look up? Everyone thought the idea was perfect, so, the next time I found myself at an office supply store (which, I'll admit, happens to me a lot), I purchased a dry-erase board. This is truly a tool of the Agile Homeschooling philosophy--write down a question whenever you have one, then come back to answer it at a more convenient time.

I am not exaggerating when I say that life is a whole lot better now. Seriously. We. Love. It.

This is a snapshot of the Question Board as it looks tonight. Just this week we decided to have each person use a different color, so we could tell at a glance who was asking what. (And, let me tell you, Dad and Mom are getting into it just as much as the kids.)

The current questions are: How do you make Parmesan cheese? How are pencils made? How is paper made? What does a banana tree look like? What does a rook (bird) look like? When was the alphabet invented? Why does a coin roll on its edge? Why do we cough? When was the boat invented? How is licorice made? How do birds fly?

So far, we've been having a question answering session about once a week, usually on Friday or Saturday. This has been a fabulous opportunity to teach our young children where and how to find information, and about reliability of sources. We type up the answers, including the source of the information, in an online information management program called Backpack, but you could just as easily do it in a word processing program or even on paper. Sometimes, we realize that finding the answer is going to take more time and effort than we anticipated, so we have a section called "More Research Needed".

So now, when I'm running around the kitchen trying to keep the pancakes from burning, I hear these words instead: "Mom, I'm going to write a question on the Question Board." See, life really is a whole lot better!