My homeschooler is finally in her last year of middle school, and these past few years of transitioning have really been eye opening. In this series, I’ll be covering quite a few topics dealing specifically with a middle schooler. (I realize there are more topics dealing with preschool, grade school, and even high school than there are the middle school years, so I’m taking a stab at this.)
Day 1: How do we encourage middle school homeschoolers to ask questions?
Let’s start with an even narrower focus:
The importance of asking questions
When my daughter began middle school (or 6th grade) a few years ago, I began to realize how important it is for her to ask the question “why” in her studies. Not only do I want her to have a joy of learning, but I wanted the outcome of a student that can think for herself. Some of the questions I wanted her to consider are:
- Why are the events in history important to us today?
- Why is it important to study mathematics?
- Why is it important to understand what is going on in the world around you by keeping abreast of top world and national news?
- Why is it important to understand other cultures?
- Why is it important to practice daily at the english language: spelling, grammar, reading great books, and the working with the craft of writing?
Besides asking why questions concerning the importance of what she studies, I was interested in having her learn to deliberately find questions to ask on her own.
Asking why helps students to tap into their own thought processes and teaches them how their world works and how their brain works. They are able to understand metacognition- or the art of understanding how one thinks. When a student knows how she thinks, she is able to formulate the right questions to help her learn. Many times, it’s the why question that triggers the learning process. It’s a cross disciplinary technique that will help a student to learn any subject effectively. Simply ask why.
Ways to implement the why question
In middle school (usually grades 6-8) it’s important to help kids begin to see the world around them and how they fit into it from a global perspective. And it’s also a great time to help them learn intrinsic learning patterns and study skills. Asking why assists them in doing this.
When teaching a subject be sure to keep the Big Question (why) in front of your student. If they can’t answer it, that’s okay. Asking the question just gets their mental wheels turning and helps them exercise their thinking caps!
One thing I did with my daughter back in 6th grade was to have her listen to the CNN Student News. These news sessions always lead to deeper discussions about the state of affairs of our world and our country, and it helped her to see that there are things that happen that we just can’t explain.
We go back in history and ask why the Crusades happened. We can go to our world culture studies (Sonlight, Core F) and consider world cultures and their differences. We can ask why certain characters in our literature studies made their decisions and how culture affected their actions.
Sometimes there is no answer to the question “why”. Sometimes there are limited answers. And that’s why other meaningful questions should be asked, such as “how”.
Other questions middle school homeschoolers should ask
Let’s not forget about the “what”. In fact, in order to be able to understand any subject, a student must first understand the “what”- or the main idea.
Middle school is a perfect time to prepare kids to begin evaluating their courses based on these simple five questions: who, what, when, where, and how. When a student asks “what”, they’re getting to the main idea fairly quickly, and can then begin the process of disseminating information and dissecting content through the art of outlining. (Outlining isn’t necessarily just a writing exercise. You can outline any topic mentally if you understand the basic discourse of how the process of thought works.)
Having your middle school student begin asking these five main questions will help them to begin learning to outline effectively (whether they write down their outlines or not).
And, of course, asking questions helps to transition our students into higher level thinking and begin preparing them for high school!
Has this been helpful? I sure hope so!
Join me on my next leg of this 5 day journey of my topic on helping middle school homeschoolers to establish routines.