Sign up to receive 10 free downloadable workbooks! Sign Up

Benefits of Homeschooling: Inquiry-Based Learning

TheHomeSchoolMom - Benefits of Homeschooling: Inquiry Based LearningI recently wrote about how homeschooling parents can use a dialogue-based approach to education, (also here), which I see as a big potential benefit to home education. While many public schools have been forced into test-prep mania that defines success very narrowly, homeschoolers can use this educational approach to develop critical thinking and evaluate learning.

Looking for a curriculum your kids will like?
An online homeschool curriculum can open new doors by creating an interactive learning experience that brings concepts to life.
online curriculum
Homeschooling should be fun.
With Time4Learning, it can be!

Scientific American has a recent story that reflects my thoughts on the unfortunate increased emphasis on standardized testing in public education:

. . . formal education, which is driven by test taking, is increasingly failing to require students to ask the kind of questions that lead to informed decisions.

Learning To Learn Is the Key

The article goes on to explain that “learning to learn” is the key, and author Dennis M. Bartels describes how researchers have found that development of the ability to ask good questions is a big part of that.

At the Exploratorium in San Francisco, we recently studied how learning to ask good questions can affect the quality of people’s scientific inquiry. We found that when we taught participants to ask “What if?” and “How can?” questions that nobody present would know the answer to and that would spark exploration, they engaged in better inquiry at the next exhibit—asking more questions, performing more experiments and making better interpretations of their results. Specifically, their questions became more comprehensive at the new exhibit. Rather than merely asking about something they wanted to try (“What happens when you block out a magnet?”), they tended to include both cause and effect in their question (read more at Scientific American).

This is no surprise to me. My own kids learned to ask questions and think critically, often referred to as inquiry based learning, because these were exactly the kinds of questions I asked them. Our conversations were and are deep and interlinked, spiked with references to what we’re reading, videos we’ve watched, TED Talks we’ve listened to, and things we’ve learned from field trips and classes and NPR and Nova.

Inquiry Based Learning Leads to Critical Thinking

I teach at an academic homeschool co-op, and I see the kids there blessed with the same opportunity to analyze things from all angles, to truly engage concepts by working with one another and with knowledgeable adults who provide resources, guide experience, and ask questions. When the kids work on projects together or participate in critiques, I see them stretch their inquiry skills. I also see them translate these skills into strong writing skills over time.

Further, it may be counter-intuitive, but inquiry based learning does lead to accumulation of knowledge, of “content,” as explained at public television’s Thirteen Ed Online website.

The Scientific American article concludes that these techniques work better outside the typical public school classroom. I think that’s probably true given the current atmosphere in many classrooms, where teachers are required to focus on standards of learning. This creates priority for memorizing facts but doesn’t allow time to develop rich context for them. Large class sizes, social issues, and many accepted school defaults (collaboration is “cheating;” getting wrong answers is “failure,” etc.) also make inquiry-based learning harder to do in traditional classrooms.

Museums and informal learning settings are ideal for the kind of inquiry-based learning that develops critical thinking, says Scientific American.

As I read the article, I found myself thinking–the author doesn’t know that what he is describing is a major component of homeschooling.

In particular, science education is at risk for becoming ineffective if it doesn’t focus on inquiry. Homeschoolers are able to live the scientific method, creating thought experiments and real experiments to test ideas and hypotheses. Along the way, our children gain crucial factual knowledge that becomes well-engrained, because it was integrated contextually.

However, we homeschoolers, too, can get caught up in moving through curriculum and not taking advantage of the time and intimacy we have with our kids. No matter our homeschooling style, we need to remember to keep inquiry at the forefront of our children’s education.

Learn More...

If authentic engagement represents your homeschool philosophy, read more about how to engage your children in these posts from our contributor Living Education by Oak Meadow covering topics like nature-based learning, creativity, handwriting, homeschooling multiple grades, authentic engagement, and more.

Living Education posts »

As the Scientific American article concludes:

Asking juicy questions appears to be a transferable skill for deepening collaborative (scientific) inquiry. . . .

Have you encouraged your kids to ask juicy questions today?

Save

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

Read Next Post
»
Read Previous Post
«

TheHomeSchoolMom - Benefits of Homeschooling: Inquiry Based Learning />

TheHomeSchoolMom may be compensated for any of the links in this post through sponsorships, paid ads, free or discounted products, or affiliate links. Local resource listings are for information purposes only and do not imply endorsement. Always use due diligence when choosing resources, and please verify location and time with the organizer if applicable. Suggestions and advice on TheHomeSchoolMom.com are for general information purposes only and should never be considered as specific to any individual situation, nor are they a diagnosis or treatment advice for any kind of medical, developmental, or psychological condition. Blog posts represent the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors or the publisher. Full terms of use and disclosure

Comments

  1. Franchesca

    How do I ask “juicy questions”? I have an-almost-3 y/o so I don’t even know if asking is appropriate at this age but I don’t know what to ask. I don’t know what questions count.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *