What’s in a question?

This morning, we decided to visit The Science and Industry Museum, or MOSI as it’s known.  J adores trains, engines, tracks – anything that moves really and we have spent many a fantastic day marveling at the huge variety of engines in the power hall and chugging along the tracks in a steam engine.  Every time we go, we discover a new snippet of information, notice a new cog or piston; it really is a super way to spend a day (and I don’t even really like engines!) and that’s without visiting any of the other exhibitions –  our plan for today!

Anyway, after all the usual morning chores with which J helped like an angel, we eventually headed out of the front door.  As we did so, I thought to myself that all I had done this morning was nag J and ask him endless, dreary questions:

Have you been to the toilet?  Have you put your cars away?  Did you shut the bedroom door?  Would you like to play this? Read that? Go here?

You get the picture.  Mindless, closed questions.  I hadn’t even let him choose what he wanted to do.

I made a mental note to stop it but tried not to think too much about it as it doesn’t seem to happen that often.

I felt a little better by the time we arrived at MOSI as we spent most of the half an hour car journey discussing car keys.  At the moment, J loves to lock and unlock the car, but this morning he seemed to be very interested in the different buttons, why the key flips inside the plastic, what the key does in the ignition.  You name it; he thought of it.  We had a really good chat about it, who would ever have thought so much learning could come from a car key and he didn’t once ask if we were “nearly there yet”

The museum was packed.  It was great to see as recently there was a concern that funding was going to be withdrawn and given to the London Science museums and MOSI would have to close.  I was pleased as we headed towards the hands-on area that so many people were interested in not only Science but the history of their City over the last few hundred years.

I was soon to be disappointed.

We almost ran around upstairs; J was desperate to try to create different sounds with different lengths of tube, he giggled at the thermochromic materials and was delighted when we found out how they work.  He spent about ten minutes with the magnets – I rethought my questioning and asked him whether he could line up all the red ends.  After of course discovering that he couldn’t, my 3 year old was able to tell me that magnetic poles “don’t like each other!”  My jaw nearly hit the floor. In the brain exhibition, he asked me to explain the models and diagrams and I asked him what he thought, what he liked, what he wanted to do next and he couldn’t get enough.    Boy, was I glad I’d thought about my questioning that morning?! The exhibition was aimed at those over 14 but he was so enthusiastic that this didn’t matter a jot.  I just changed the language in the explanations to make them more accessible; he lapped it up!

Here comes the disappointing part.  For every child I saw who was as excited as J, who was accompanied by an adult who was just as enthusiastic as he was and was talking and questioning them in a way that seemed, to me, to be allowing them to learn what they wanted I saw a least 10 others.  Others who were shuffling along with their eyes to the ground, who wanted to go home and play “Call of duty” – but worse than this.  Much worse.  There were children tugging at their mother’s arm, begging them to interact with them but, and I kid you not, I heard this several times – the response was “Be quiet, don’t ask questions.  Play on my phone if you’re bored. Do you want to go to McDonalds now?” I even heard one woman say, “God, shut up! It’s not f*****g school!”

Now, I know this is more of a parenting post than a home ed one, but I had to ask myself what those children were going to spend the rest of the day doing?  Did they, like J go home full of ideas for experiments, building engines for “trains, rockets or anything!” or did they go home and stare at the television and eat their so called happy meal?

So what’s in a question?  Well, I suppose it depends on the question!