The natural curiosity of a child is a sight to behold.
To watch a toddler fumble through her world, touching, examining, tasting objects in her path is quite remarkable. Her brain taking in all the new information at lightening speed. She is making connections, drawing conclusions, and forming opinions. Her exploration continues, laying countless building blocks for future learning that truly can not be tested. To attempt to quantify her learning and assign a value to her output is like missing the forest for the trees. The world is a classroom and no lesson plans are needed. Learning can not be done to a child. Learning happens within a child. It is a private, individualized experience influenced by the environment in which she lives. This is where those who care about a child’s well-being, mental and physical health play the biggest and best part–creating the environment for learning.
You see, we have lost sight of what education is all about.
We believe that stuffing kids with facts and dates, requiring them to regurgitate information for a test that some company created by arbitrary means then scoring their performance is education. This is the mile wide, inch deep mentality and it is not education. The natural tendency for most humans who want to learn something is to immerse themselves fully in the subject matter. We learn in blocks, filling ourselves up with the topic of interest. Our brains work much better this way and it has been proven time and time again that when we are emotionally comfortable, feel like a part of the process, and are truly interested we will take in and hold onto information faster and better than if we are told what and how to learn. Take my kids for example (and every kid I’ve ever met before)– as they have grown, they have each gravitated towards an activity with great enthusiasm. For my son it was trains, then Legos and Bionicles, then Pokemon and all things associated with Pokemon, then baseball and gaming, now soccer. His ability to take in information and learn on his own is astonishing. My role has been to answer questions when I can, pull together resources, organize activities surrounding his interest, and support, support, support. My daughter’s activities have been different, but no less significant. She draws all the time–has been since she was two years old, so I provide materials and opportunities. She enjoys cooking and baking, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. She loves gymnastics, has watched videos and taught herself various moves. She enjoys learning about hairstyles so she watches how to do one and then tries to replicate a style on my hair or her own. She does this over and over again. Both kids have pursued a mountain of information by following their own unique interests, and the knowledge they have accumulated sticks!
We are primed, as humans, to take in the world around us.
Our desire to gain an understanding of what we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel is innate. This can not be stressed enough. Children want to learn, they want to improve, they want to experience life, so why are there so many ‘learning problems’? Quite frankly, I think it’s the system itself. Checking boxes, following a curriculum without any input from the learner, mandating what and how learning should happen, and doling out grades isn’t education and it certainly isn’t pro-learner. Putting the student’s needs, interests, and abilities back into the equation is absolutely necessary if we truly want an engaged and educated population.