26. Are We (Unwittingly) Preventing Children from Learning?
“If you’re tempted to touch the microscopes, then put your hands in your pockets.” I heard the group leader tell the children.
I was a parent chaperone on my daughter’s grade 3 field trip and was having a hard time with what I was seeing.
My experience as a homeschool mom has taught me many things. One of them being that kids are naturally curious and want to learn. Allowing that curiosity to play out is one of the best ways to keep kids engaged and interested in learning.
As I hung out with my daughter’s group at the microscope table, they were examining different types of soil first, followed by various kinds of material. It was done in a set order and all kids were to examine the exact same material at the exact same time.
But kids being kids, were very interested in these little handheld microscopes. They wanted to examine the table, their shirts, stick the microscopes on the ground to examine the earth underfoot, or even pick up blades of grass or dandelions to see what they looked like up close.
And the adults being adults, saw the kids not listening, not paying attention, and being disruptive.
But these kids were curious — they wanted to learn how they wanted to learn.
Kids naturally follow their joy and they learn through play. They follow the spark that’s inside of them, and it’s beautiful to watch when you understand what you’re witnessing.
I recognize that in large group settings, such as the field trip we were on, or even the classrooms our kids reside in every day, there needs to be some level of control over the kids. It can’t be pure chaos.
But the control seems to come at the expense of the child’s innate desire to learn.
On this particular field trip, with the parent-to-student ratios we had, we very easily could have had kids running around exploring the landscape with their microscopes. There could have been free time to explore within a specific area so that it wasn’t pure chaos.
But the adult-desired efficiency won out. This field trip had particular goals for the children to learn certain things and it was going to be achieved!
However, I don’t think this was done with any conscious thought. Sure, the goals may have been intentional, but the cost of squashing natural curiosity (of the very things they were trying to teach!) was not.
I doubt there was a single teacher or group leader at the venue we were visiting that was thinking about this from how children naturally learn.
They may have been thinking about the types of activities that would be engaging to children -– and they did a great job with this. The children were indeed engaged.
But we (adults) have fallen into a pattern where we believe that children only learn when adults teach them and we don’t want to let go of control out of fear of what might happen.
It wasn’t until I started homeschooling, that I understood the powerful innate desire of children to learn.
They want to explore. They ask really intelligent questions and if we follow their lead, a whole world of learning opens up.
Kids have so much to teach us.
Yes, they need guidance, direction, and focus. But mostly, they need us to let them be. They need us to allow them the opportunity to explore, learn, experiment, and come up with their own ideas and draw to their conclusions.
We can sit and research topics with our kids. We can ask them questions to help them think through a problem critically. But whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible) we must allow their curiosity to flourish.
We must put aside our beliefs of how learning “should” take place, and simply allow learning to happen. Because it always does.
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