Many educational philosophers, like Charlotte Mason or Reggio’s Loris Malaguzzi, agree that Inquiry led learning is best!“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understand well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” Loris Malaguzzi
The term is thrown around a lot in the homeschool world. What does it mean? How do you do it? Is it that we leave children to their own devices? Hoping something wonderful will arise? I think not. How can we “put them in the way of things to observe while still being “inquiry led”?Here’s what I find to be the best way to have authentic inquiry led experiences.
The environment of your home should invite the child to initiate their own ideas. Art supplies, building materials, nature bits etc. should be in a place open to their disposal. (Our homeschool room: a nature pal exchange project we studied for weeks on our dining room table)(Instead of toys we have invitations to play supported with related books! These shelves revolve every week or every 2 weeks!)
Some children like low tables that offer the the opportunity to iniate/direct their own projects. Whether art, construction, or nature study, their workspace should be accessible- giving them full permission to explore.(Fin decided to paint barn animals and pulled out her materials)(A self-led art project, I just provided support when asked)(Our moveable art-cart fully assessable to them)
Display their finished and unfinished work (preferably in a low place at their eye level) This reminds them of projects they want to revise and adapt, and it shows them their work is important. (A display of finished and unfinished beetle and dinosaur work in our art studio)(Our ever-growing cicada collection on display. Many musings and questions arise!)
Add relevant books, maps, brochures to their work spaces. They can seek their own questions and answers.(Our nature table with supportive books)(The girls decided the type of cactus we were painting for our nature pal was a prickly pear, thanks to our supportive books)(A book or cityscapes to support our drawing, building, making of an animal city)
Carve out time: to be in and near their workspace. Life can still be inquiry led with set project time. This is a time where screens are put away, and mom/teacher is there to offer assistance to the child’s ideas.
(Our project time is normally after our morning basket when we are fresh each day)
For more on environment check out 30 days to transform your play!
Lay a Feast:
The first way I lay a feast of ideas each and everyday is through stories. We begin our day in the reading nest. We read good books, and the children have a pocket full of ideas to start their day. “Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.” Charlotte Mason
Lay out art, sensory, nature, storytelling, etc. provocations! I typically set out one or 2 a day.
*This is an ongoing beetle investigation that sparked from our love of The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins. The interest has been over the entire year, we loop back to the book every so often since it’s in our reading nest. We’ve made our own laminated, illustrated, and authored beetle book. We’ve made and painted clay beetles. We’ve revised and added to our beetle book when new information comes our way: like dung beetles we found in an elephant book. The girls identify types of beetles in Jan Brett books, and love to find them in real life. It’s been a lovely inquiry.(For provocation ideas click around other places here and check out twoodaloo).
Let it go! Where ever they want.
This was an epic potion making session in the mud kitchen. Vinegar, baking soda, cornstarch, glitter and more! Outside is a great place to let loose and LET THEM PLAY! You wont regret it. The hose is our friend.
This can be hard, and even takes practice. But we are here to offer books, questions, and guidance for their ideas, not to impart our own. Most of the time the girls do something completely contrary to the intention I set out. And it’s always awesome. Their ideas go much deeper than mine. And when an idea is their own, they pursue it intensely (much more so than if they are pursuing my idea to please me.)
*Fin was suddenly interested in letters when she found a small brochure in our wax crayon box. She wanted badly to make her own “map”, as she called it. She picked out her materials, I printed a sheet of letters and she got to work. The interest continues often. When we come home from trips we bring maps and brochures with us. Here is a map of Canada she insisted on drawing! Can you see the long bridge, small grid-like streets of downtown, island shape, and compass? I laid out invitations and extended the interest by bringing home maps, but do you think she would work as passionately if I sat her down for a letter worksheet or geography lecture?
“What children dig for becomes his own possession.” Charlotte Mason
Answer questions with questions: “I don’t know, what do you think?” “Hmm, Where do you think we could find out?” The thought process matters much more than correct answers
*Fin continues to revise her airplane, asking for assistance and for ways to solve her problems. She could solve most of them on her own with a little questioning of my own (like hmm, that doesn’t work what if we try?) She takes on the role of an engineer, asking and answering the hard questions of how to make her structure sound. I offered pen and paper to document her work. She wasn’t interested in that so I sat down next to her and drew my own to show her how important I thought her work was. She sat down next to me and decided to draw her own.
Leave your feast out: rearrange and add to it to spark new interest. Sit down and explore yourself, see if they join you. Be Breezy: This is a hard one. But our children know when we are forceful, even under the surface. Truly let your littles explore the materials how they decide. Relax and let it get a little messy.*Fin made her own gift for a friend. A tiger! She picked out all of her materials and executed it with little assistance. If I had taken control it might look more like a tiger, but what would that accomplish? A finer finished project is not valuable in comparison to the important self-initiated, self-regulated work of a growing/capable girl.
Try again! Not all the provocations I set out spark an interest. Either rearrange it for the next day or try a new one! The point is to offer. And HAVE FUN!
May we do all things in to connect with and learn from each other ✨