Why? is such a good question!
I remember an exercise a teacher led us through in a class I had when I attended the university as a young woman. The class was a Family Science class, and the teacher asked us to raise our hands if we had made our bed before we came to school that morning. We dutifully raised our hands. Then she asked, “Why?” Laughter. Then she asked it again. “Why?” She got us thinking.
Of course, the first response is always, “because we are supposed to” or “because we always make our bed” or “my mom taught me to do it that way”. The teacher’s point was that we do so much that is not useful, necessary, important . . . that we act like robots a lot of the time, and that it could be cured by asking “why?”.
I was pregnant with my first child during this class, and I raised my hand and said, “I made my bed because when I get home, I need to go lay down and take a nap and I like it smooth”. She accepted that as a valid reason. But, I loved the excitement I felt when I realized that we don’t have to do things “just because”. We can decide what we want to do for a good reason. And we can reject things that are unnecessary. We can think “outside the box”.
A few weeks ago, one of the moms in my homeschool support group brought her basket of laundry to fold as we talked. I asked her why she folded clothes. (I haven’t folded clothes for 30 years, so it struck me as novel!) That teacher had caused me stop and analyze why I did what I did all day with my time, and give up those things that did not serve a purpose. Folding towels and sheets served a purpose—they fit neatly on the shelf. But folding underclothes and t-shirts and the like didn’t really matter, I decided. I hang most of what I wanted it to look unwrinkled on hangers to dry, making it easy to transfer to my closet. And the rest of it, even if folded, seldom made it from my nicely folded stacks into my boys’ drawers neatly, anyway.
This year, I am doing Square Foot Gardening. The author has written a new book, ALL NEW Square Foot Gardening, modifying the method for ease and simplifying much of what he wrote in his bestselling original book (which sold 1 million copies, making it the bestselling garden book in America). What I love about it is this once-civil-engineer/efficiency expert took a look at gardening when he was first taking it up as a hobby, and asked, “Why?”. Why plant in straight lines? Why in rows? Why rotortill? Why thin out plants? Why plant all at the same time? Why?
Does questioning old methods excite you like it does me? I want to sift through them, saving and honoring the truth, and discarding traditions that don’t work so well.
I feel sure that no mother comes to homeschooling without doing a lot of questioning, a lot of asking “why?” Why should my little child be gone all day from me? Why do they make the children sit in desks for such long periods? Why do they teach the subjects they do? Why is so much emphasis on testing? Why are children grouped by age, instead of maturity level? Why? . . . and on and on it goes.
Just the process of questioning is exhilarating and revealing. Don’t be afraid of questions. Don’t be afraid of asking “why?” If the automatic answer includes such ideas as, “that’s how it has always been done”, or “that is the way we are supposed to do it”, you might want to delve deeper. Let your children ask why. Don’t be threatened by it. Dare to think outside of the box and you’ll discover the reasons—and you can change the way you live accordingly.
It has taken me on many an exciting adventure and journey, just that little ole’ question: why?