viernes, 30 de enero de 2015

What it means to be a Natural Learner

I don't know if I'll keep this blog for much longer, because I feel like I'm repeating myself, and I get tired. When people ask me what we do, I tell them. They seem to understand, but then, after a while, they ask again and sometimes they even say, 'But it looks like you don't do anything. The kids just play. We don't see you teaching them anything.'

Sigh. Well, I don't teach them anything. I just do. I do my own thing. I ask them if they want to participate in the activities that interest me (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't). I observe (or ask) what their interests are and let them do them, no matter what they are, it's their choice, not mine! In some I participate, and in others I don't. For example, I don't play Minecraft. I tried, but it's not my thing. I don't play video games, although I have nothing against them. I enjoy playing other games with them, and they have plenty other people they can play Minecraft with. I know that I and their father are the main influences in their lives, so I try to give a good example in everything I do, from dealing with people to eating to how I spend my time. I talk to them, I listen, and if I make a mistake, I apologise. I answer their questions, but I don't give them lectures or preach and I don't claim to know everything. I don't hurt them and then tell them it's for their own good. I don't lie to them. I trust them.

And when people tell me that the children just play, I say yes, and that's what they ought to be doing. If I were the minister of education, there would be no compulsory schooling. Education would be free for every child to take, not imposed. Children would play all day long. They would read and be read to, they would sing, they would dance, they would surf or do whatever sport they chose to do. They would spend all day doing maths or science experiments, if that's what they wanted to do. There would be no tests, no classrooms. They would be free to learn, like my children are.

But it's an imperfect world and most children are forced to learn. Well, just because most people are doing that to their children, I'm not going to do it, too. After all, we all do what we think is best for our kids, and I don't think compulsory schooling is good for them.

They are learning when they're playing. In fact, learning only occurs when the learner is interested in what he's supposed to be learning. That's why they learn so much through play. Some people realise this. Suddenly someone will say to me, 'Wow, Dave knows so much about the planets.' or 'Alex picked that up so quick!' They seem surprised, of course, because apparently, the kids spend their days learning nothing. As if that was possible.

This display of knowledge on the part of my children happens only when it's spontaneous. That is, when the adult was not testing them. When someone tries to test them, the children sense it straight away. They don't say anything but I can tell they don't like it. I've observed that if the person who wants to test them is someone they really care about, they answer their questions just to please them, which breaks my heart a little. But I get this sort of treatment sometimes as well, usually by people who think they are more intelligent than me. I dislike it so much that it makes me laugh. They ask me a question not because they really want to know the answer, but to check how much I know about a certain subject and judge if they can give me a lesson or better not. Recently someone told me, 'You know a lot, Carmen!' Well, of course I do: I don't read the daily newspaper, I search and research, and I listen to people I can learn from, not to charlatans and arrogant intellectuals. And if there is a subject I know little about, I shut my mouth and refrain from condemning or judging!

It seems that most people are not able to separate 'playing' from 'learning'. So it's okay for children to play, to be on holidays, as long as they also dedicate some time to learning. It's the same people who separate work from having fun. The thing is, I don't separate them. I have the freedom to love what I do. And I am lucky that I can give my children the freedom to learn because they are still naturally curious about lots of things, not because they have to.