When we went to live in Italy, I was the one who could speak Italian. There was a moment where I didn’t understand a joke that the kids were sharing in the car with their friends. In that instant I knew that they had surpassed me in their Italian, I knew from then on I would always be keeping up with them. That they are now fluent in two languages is, to me, invaluable. They will always now have that skill. I think that giving kids the opportunity to learn another language is wonderful. Like learning an instrument, it will always be there for them to access. Somebody once said to me ‘But where did they learn how to speak and read Italian?’ and I said ‘They learnt through life and through being curious about the language and through living in Italy.’ Which is the truth.
Kids are endlessly curious. I have a book in which I write down the children’s curious questions. I haven’t done it for a while but already there are so many questions that I definitely can’t keep up. Nor can I answer all the brilliant questions that they ask. Kids are born curious. One of our daughters would just watch people quietly for a long time when she was a baby, she was in that moment being curious.
Curiosity and play I think are interlinked. If you think about how kids learn about things like what food is nice, what isn’t, what tastes off, what tastes good. This is all through a natural curiosity. Our son loved fire as a child, he was so curious about it. He really liked to play with fire. His curiosity challenged his need to be safe at times. I remember asking if he would like to know a little bit more about fire, when he was very small. He said ‘yes’. I got a very dry piece of newspaper and a lighter and I lit the bottom corner and within two seconds the whole piece of paper was up in flames. His curiosity was still there but through showing him what a flame can do I think I taught him in that moment how powerful fire can be. Not to shame him but to give him a perspective. The girls still talk about that day. That was where curiosity and learning came together through experience.
I want our kids to stay curious. I try as an adult to stay as curious as possible, I love to know about people’s lives, how people live, how they feel about things. I have learnt so much about other people’s perspectives on the world. I think that to remain curious, in some ways is to remain alive and open to the world.
POWERFUL QUESTIONS ABOUT CURIOSITY
How curious are you about those closest to you? Or have you stopped being interested?
Can you ask your partner or significant other or best friend to tell you something new about him or her?
What do you step away from asking questions about because you assume it will be boring, or make you feel uncomfortable?
What happens to you when you are around very curious people or children? How does it make you feel?
EXERCISES FOR CURIOSITY WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Ask your children about their lives and listen to their replies. Ask them about their feelings.
Ask them to tell you something about them that you don’t know.
Invite them to ask you something about you that they don’t know.
Listen for questions and stop and answer them, or if you can’t in that moment, let your child know that you will get back to them with an answer.
If they are curious and you don’t know an answer, look it up with them or encourage them to find out for themselves.
Learn the games that they are playing.
Be curious about their lives, who they like, what they like, why they like things.
Stay curious yourself about the world around you. Did you know that a May fly only lives for a day? And that the Ohioan wood frogs freeze in the winter, so much so that their hearts stop? Think about it. Show them your curiosity for life. Even if it is hard to find right now, like flexing a muscle, it is there and sure was there when you were a child.
‘Curiosity is the engine of interaction, blow on this fire till it rages, do not direct it, celebrate it in all its forms, it will unlock enlightenment and human fulfillment’ A.E.Rogers/Jump, Fall, Fly
This is an extract from Jump, Fall, Fly from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling. Available here
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