Heartfelt Discussion Versus Question & Answer

a dad and child discuss what they are reading

Now more than ever, it is important that we are talking to one another. New social distancing rules means many families are staying home more. This means fewer co-ops, outings, and field trips, and fewer in-person connections with friends. For many homeschoolers, it means we are with our families more than ever.

While this time together brings challenges, it also provides the opportunity to truly connect with each other. The closeness that we’ve been offered is a great time to have heartfelt conversations with our children while they’re learning, rather than simple question/answer moments. 

Facts Versus Feelings 

When we use the simple question and answer format, a question is posed and the child searches through materials, or his memory to present the facts of the, so-called, right answer. A short discussion may ensue, regarding how the child came up with the answer. But there is generally little follow-up. Instead, the child is typically ushered on to the next topic, having demonstrated an understanding of the knowledge that was presented in the lessons and asked via the question. 

If we focus on how the students feels about what is presented, we can easily dive into heartfelt discussions. Of course, these discussions may not necessarily land on a right answer. In fact, they often generate more questions that can lead to a far deeper understanding of what is learned.

Sometimes referred to as the Socratic method, asking questions and following up with questions encourages learners to feel comfortable with not knowing the answer to a question and encourages critical thinking skills. It shows children that the answer might not even be out there. We may have to discover it from our own train of thought and our own experiences. 

Opportunities for Heartfelt Discussion in the Homeschool Environment 

  • Heartfelt Discussion Versus Question & AnswerShared Reading: No matter the age of our children, we can share reading with them by reading aloud, taking turns reading aloud, or by creating a family book club, where everyone reads their own copy of the same book and meets to discuss it

  • Observations of Nature: Getting outside is a great way to be together during times of social distancing. For example: Go outside and observe the behavior of the animals you see. Why is the bird carrying twigs in her mouth? Where is she going? Observe the clouds in the sky. Why are some puffy and some thin and spread out? What causes that? Be inquisitive alongside your child. 

  • Discuss Movies and Documentaries: Science and history documentaries are excellent jumping points for heartfelt discussion. Present your questions, as they come up while watching the program. Encourage your children to do the same. For things you don’t know, make a point to research it together later.

Heartfelt Discussion in Action

  • A Roundtable Discussion with What, Why, How: One person presents a question based on what was learned. Discussion follows, then another person presents a what, why, or how question based on the discussion. The process continues until everyone feels they’ve gone far enough. This can be adjusted to suit the ages of the children playing. 

  • What if?: During an experiment, ask children what might have happened if a variable was different. How might it have changed the outcome? Let them make changes to the experiment to see what the outcomes are. 

  • Q & Q Session: Instead of question and answer sessions during a book, try a question and question session. This will encourage deeper understanding and critical thinking. 

Heartfelt discussions are less about finding the right answer and more about learning—truly getting to the bottom of what we know. It’s about connection and realizing that the answer might not even be out there to be found.

When we focus on heartfelt discussions with our children, we get to trade the teacher role, where a single correct answer is waiting to be found and instead take the role of explorer, observer, and co-learner. By shifting our role, we encourage our children to do so as well.

They learn to see themselves and their experiences as the resources to making new discoveries. They gain the heart of a lifelong learner instead of a scholar who parrots others' thoughts and memorizes facts.

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About the Author

Resa BrandenburgResa Brandenburg is a former middle school teacher who homeschools her youngest child. She believes that children are natural learners who learn best from life when provided with freedom, resources, encouragement, and loving support.

She lives in Kentucky with her tattooist husband, their dog, two cats, two ball pythons, and a fish. She spends her spare time reading, writing, gardening, and quilting. She has two grown sons and two grandchildren whom she loves spending time with as often as she possibly can.