“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
While I was in Bali this past summer completing a yoga teacher training course, one of our instructors shared this beautiful quote with us. I immediately applied it on a personal level, connecting with my ongoing willingness to try to accept and become comfortable with the unknown or with the problems that are not yet solved in my life. Especially in today’s busy world, it seems we are always looking for the fastest and easiest answer to our problems but what if we were able to become more patient and more comfortable with being in that place of uncertainty? What might we find or learn along the way if instead of seeking an immediate answer; we sought more questions and gave more space and time for a better solution to unfold?
This quote also immediately brought to mind the children in my classroom, your elementary aged children at home who as Maria Montessori described possess this extraordinary reasoning mind with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and for finding the answers to all of life’s questions. As both a teacher and a parent, I’m sure we’ve all experienced that sometimes it is just easier to give an answer to a child when they come to us with a question, be it academic or perhaps involving a social or moral issue. We have a tendency to want to fix or solve their problems and eliminate their struggles. What happens when we provide children with an immediate answer however, is that the ability to reason and perhaps examine the question from a variety of angles or perspectives is diminished. The learning is finite, however if we can encourage them to keep coming up with more questions and to think of their own solutions, the learning becomes infinite and takes place on a much deeper level. In order to promote the independent thinking and self-sufficiency that we hope to nurture in a Montessori environment, what would serve the child best is to allow them space to live those questions they have. Instead of rushing to provide an answer, we can give them time to ponder, to become comfortable in the uncertainty and perhaps to fail a few times in order to have a chance at perhaps finding the answer on their own when the time is right.
Here are some ways you might respond to your child’s questions in order to promote independent thinking:
Fact Based or Academic Questions
Social or Moral Dilemmas
Where could you look that up?
How could we find more information about that?
What do you think the answer might be?
What would your guess be? How could we check if that’s correct?
I’ve noticed ___________, why do you think that is?
What are some other questions you have on that topic?
What do you think that person was thinking when they did that? Why might they be acting that way?
How would you feel if you were that person?
What could you say to let that person know how you are feeling?
What would you like that person to do differently?
How could you do things differently next time?
What do you think about that?
Who is affected by that action? How does that affect ______?
What would make you feel better?
Who else could you ask for help?