I’ve been a teacher since 2004. I even got my Master’s in Education in 2009. But it didn’t fully register with me until recently, the truest truth about education. Children will learn. Generally, you just need to get out of their way to let that happen.
Now, this can happen to varying degrees. At one end of the spectrum, you have top-down education in which a teacher lectures and gives out assignments with little decision-making on the part of the child. This frames education as something that is given from adult to child in measured way. Typically, subjects such as math, history, and reading are isolated, and taught in separate sessions.
This is the usual experience at public school.
On the other end of the spectrum, a child discovers and explores completely at his or her own whim. In this case, an adult might only facilitate learning, managing things a child cannot do such as drive to places of interest, or buy materials. In this case, education is something the child obtains according to his or her interests. It can happen at any time and is completely self-directed. Learning is holistic, as any topic might integrate a host of skills to be built upon.
This is the realm of the unschooler.
Some educational experiences are somewhere in between. There are schools both public and private that recognize the value of self-directed study. They provide opportunities for it the best they can. Project-based schools allow for some flexibility in subject matter and interest level.
The 100-plus-year-old Prussian model of servicing 30 docile children at once with modular lesson plans is archaic.
I will be arguing throughout this blog that simply getting out of the way of children so that they can learn what they want to, allows them to achieve the richest education possible. Not only do children have a better opportunity to form critical thinking skills and creativity this way, they come to recognize big-picture connections between phenomena. They can see the forest and the trees.
These are the skills they will need to live happy and successful lives in the 21st century.