In our schools, before we teach our children math, ecology or history…before we teach them about much of anything really …we might want to consider how we could teach them about themselves.
We might want to consider an approach to education that would honestly and gently acclimate them to what it is they are experiencing, even as they are just beginning to experience the world beyond their home life. As we would a person with amnesia, or for a person who had been stranded on an island for 20 years, giving our children an overview and a context of basic human processes and current cultural understandings would provide them with simple points of reference.
Parents have traditionally provided this sense of where the child belongs within the core family group. More and more, though, parents are too busy keeping up with themselves and/or crashing and trashing through their own lives to take enough time and to have enough accurate information to do this regularly and effectively.
This is not their intention. We love our children as much as any generation ever has. It is undeniable, though, that the basic tempo of our life has accelerated. Within every 24 hour period, we keep trying to do more because we’ve discovered there is so much more out there to do.
In this rush, our children are frequently given half-truths, outdated and misguided answers during their most formative and impressionable stages. These, given by ourselves and by our educational systems.
It is commonly understood that children have the ability to learn different languages easily at very early stages. The truth is that children are learning a broad spectrum of behaviors from very early on. We call them sponges for a reason. They are absorbing whatever is front of them.
In America, our current educational system force feeds our young reading, writing and arithmetic from the outset.
The complaint from our young has been consistent for more than 50 years: “I don’t know why I have to learn any of this.”
Why indeed, at ages 4, 5, and 6, do they need to know how to count, to add, to subtract? From kindergarten onwards, school learning is most often confusing drudgery.
We might consider exposing our children to various practical subjects, broadly at first, but then in depth as they demonstrate an interest. The intent is to spark their natural curiosity and then to encourage, observe and guide. To truly teach.
For example, we all now know that most of our communication skills are non-verbal. We all use tone, inflection, cadence along with gestures and facial expressions to express ourselves. Words are a minor component, sometimes an actual impediment, in our attempts to communicate with someone else. The continued emphasis that our educational systems places upon grammar, spelling and punctuation is archaic. The necessity for the written word has been gradually fading. There are audio books and videos everywhere. There are websites that will instruct us step by step through anything we could possibly want to know about or to do. They exist because they work. They’re as effective and more time efficient than reading.
Our children know this. They pick up skills so much easier and faster when 1) they have an interest and 2) they’re given the time, tools and guidance to grapple and grasp at their own pace.
Our current educational systems instill a sense of competition that inhibits true learning and only rewards standardized results.
No child is standard.
No standardized test is a fair assessment of what has been digested or absorbed, only of what can be regurgitated on command.
Children love to play AND learn. They make no distinction between these two. They are not separate activities. Our current approach to education forces an unnatural divide. Playing is natural. Learning is natural. Playing is an inquisitive and cooperative form of learning on multiple levels simultaneously. We’ve been doing this as a species since the caves.
We might want to consider that our challenge as parents and educators is to gently and honestly explain to the child WHAT the child is experiencing and WHAT might be learned from the experience so that the child can ‘see’ it for themselves. This would involve the development of real communication skills in our children along with the awareness of the learning process.
Relationship skills are needed in life for our happiness.
Interactional skills are vital for our health and success.
Communication, collaboration and cooperation are our primary survival skills.
We might want to consider a shift in emphasis in that direction.
We’ve already seen the results of competition based education.