Reinvent the wheel

Published by Lori Pickert on October 3, 2008 at 03:27 PM

When we grown-ups set out to do something, we always want to stand on the shoulders of those who went before. We don’t want to waste time reinventing the wheel.

With project work, however, we do want to reinvent the wheel.

We want to start at square one and not a bit past it.

It’s easy to inadvertently squelch a child’s budding interest by simply answering a question.

A question is a beginning. If a child says, “How?” or “Why?” and we give them the answer, that is the end.

No, you can’t give every question a coronation. Children ask a lot of questions.

But a question, given the chance, will turn into two more questions. And so on, and so on, fed by interest, until a whole world opens.

Imagine the whole of knowledge in the form of a globe. You touch anywhere on the globe, and it connects to everything else, eventually.

Six magic words: “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” Whether you know the answer or not. Those magic words are the equivalent of swinging open a door for your child and letting him, or her, step through. Then you follow.

No, you can’t open that door to every single question an intelligent, inquistive child will ask. But you can open one.

Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasure of inquiry, their motivation and interest explode. — Loris Malaguzzi


Comment by Sarah Jackson on October 4, 2008 at 01:14 AM

Hey wise woman. I'm really glad you're back. I think I'm readying myself (finally) to take the homeschool plunge next year and I need some conversation time with you. Let me know when you have time. xoxo.

And yes, it's your project post that are getting to me. It's just what I want the kids to be doing instead of "math fact drills." UGH.

Comment by Deirdre on October 4, 2008 at 01:51 AM

Possibly this will reveal more ignorance on my part than I mean to, but would you mind sharing a post that follows this response? I feel like I know the right thing to say is "Let's find out." but to often that leads to searching the internet together. Fun and sometimes surprising what we find (a VERY cool YouTube video about other solar systems this week), but I feel like I don't know the best step. Maybe because my son is only six and just beginning to read---so a pile of books from the library would still be very mommy-driven. Would you share some examples of possible roads?

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 4, 2008 at 02:19 AM

i have time for you any time, sarah. ;^) i'll try to catch you this weekend.

deirdre, i am planning on writing more about that very thing, but you can always e-mail me (hey, or use the new forum! ;^) if you want to ask me something specific. but yes, i’ll talk more about the next steps tomorrow! and .. how to research with pre-readers and pre-writers is also coming up. :^)

Comment by melissa s. on October 4, 2008 at 02:06 PM

so well said. we recently scored a series of kids' encyclopedias at a garage sale ($3 !!!) that have become our main go-to for just about every question that's come up lately (somewhat easy when your child is into reptiles and planets). and i love how the books lead easily to an afternoon of exploring more questions/answers. the only thing so far they haven't been able to answer is, "what is dog food made out of?" Ugh.
thank you for your forum invite, btw. i definitely plan on joining!

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 4, 2008 at 03:14 PM

ha! i love that, though -- if they find out what dog food is made of, i definitely want to hear about it! :^) (and thank you!)

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