Whoever sold us the idea that the best way to teach children about the world was to isolate them from it and provide direct step-by-step instruction without real world context, must have been one persuasive human being. It’s madness. Yet you probably either believe it now or did at one time or another, right? And if you try to tell someone differently then there’s not many that will believe you. School is necessary! And yet, if you’re lucky enough to watch a child learn without school you’ll soon realise that it’s really really not.
Miss 7: I think it costs $2.70, so if I give them $3 will that be enough?
Me: Yes, $3 is more that $2.70, so that will be enough.
Miss 7: Oh, they will give me change!
Me: Yes, they will.
Miss 7: How much?
Me: How much?
Miss 7: Umm… $3
Me: No, not $3
Miss 7: Oh… umm…. 30c
Me: Yeah, 30c
Miss 7: 6 plus 3 is 9 right?
Me: That’s right.
Miss 7: So if I give them $9 I can buy 3, one for each of us.
Me: You can, and you would get some change too.
Miss 7: Yeah. Umm… 90c??
Me: That’s right.
Instead of letting her explore the world, questioning, and finding her own meaning, she could have been in school having the questions handed to her. Instead of pondering how she would spend her birthday money, she could have been completing a maths worksheet. Instead of maths being seamlessly integrated into her life, it could have been an isolated subject. Instead of understanding how maths is applicable in the real world, it could have been reduced to repetition and memorization.
We literally take children out of a rich environment full of opportunities, where they would learn all they needed to, in all areas, quite easily and joyfully. Then we place them in an artificial environment to have them learn about the very same things, just in a less meaningful manner. How absurd. Imagine instead of witnessing the changing seasons, playing outside and noticing and feeling the changes, you were merely given then facts while sitting indoors unable to see for yourself. You would have no concept of how that information was meaningful to you. The magic of the changing seasons cannot be conveyed through a worksheet. It is the same with everything. No wonder we have to use coercive methods to get children to comply in this type of ‘learning’ environment.
It’s time to let children learn how they were designed to learn, from real life. Children don’t come with manuals, each one is unique. So how can we think educating them all according to a step by step curriculum will do them justice? It won’t.
“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with children’s natural ways of learning.” – Peter Gray, Free to Learn