As much as I love summer with my children, the only part that kind of rubs me the wrong way is the questioning. I think my children were born asking questions. As a matter of fact, the first sentence formed by the oldest truly was a question, “I have that. Please?” I love that my children ask inquisitive questions…Why did that tree grow like that? How do the chickens know where to go at night? What kind of bird is that? Why is this rock so smooth? Those are the questions I will help answer all day long, but then there are the other all-day-long-just-can’t-stop-asking questions. We are into the third week of summer break and the questioning has not stopped since the first day off. What are we doing today? Can so-and-so come over? Can I call so-and-so? Can we go to a movie? Can we go to the store? Can I buy a new game? Can you take me shopping? What are you doing? How long are we going to be gone? What time are we leaving? Who else will be there? How long will it take? What doctor’s appointment? Why? Can I sleep in your bed? Can we swim? Can we go swimming? What time is the game? Where is the game? How far away is that? Can I buy a little snack at the store? When you get gas, can I go in? Can I buy a drink from the gas station (with a water bottle in the hand)? Do you have any money on you? Why are we going to the car wash? Can I vacuum? Can I put the quarters in the vacuum? Do you have anymore quarters? Why are we going to the mall? Can I get something?
For real, the questioning never stops. The teacher in me understands that summer time is much less structured and children really do need structure, but summer time is also one of the best opportunities for children to develop problem solving skills without direct instruction from an overseeing adult. Summer break is where kids learn to be their own mediator in a dispute, plan their projects without a rubric and simply explore science without a vocabulary list and question packet. One of the most respected professors that I had as a graduate student studying curriculum and assessment, took an entire class to discuss the importance of summer break on the developing brain. So I get that summer is important, but the non-stop questioning just might throw a mama over the sanity cliff.
After a morning of errands and non-stop questioning, I told all three kids that today I am going to start a new program in this household called “Five Questions.” (I haven’t decided if five is a reasonable number yet, but we are going to start low.) Every morning, I will give each of them five index cards with a question mark on it, and when they ask me a question they have to turn in the question card. When they run out of question cards, questions will no longer be answered. As I handed out the question cards today, I explained that as they hand me a card I am going to ask them a few questions before it actually exchanges hands. Questions like – Can you change the question into a statement. Instead of asking “Can I have your phone?” provide an explanation. I would like to take a picture with your phone, and I’ll bring it right back.
First there was a lot of complaining that this isn’t fair. Then there was the questioning, “but why?” WHY? For real? WHY? My face may have been turning a few shades of red and steam may or may not have been blowing out of my ears. For real? Why?
I’m not hoping this will quiet the noise level in this house, I’m just hoping this will help all three of them think a little more for themselves, look at the situation and answer their own questions, and maybe use a little bit of problem solving skills. My ultimate goals is that they will learn how to answer the question, what do we have to eat? without me.
Five Questions has been in place for less than one hour and my youngest has already blown through two cards. Hmm…this should be an interesting day.