Today many mothers and fathers are clear that we do not want to “stuff” our children with knowledge, that we do not want them to have homework or spend long hours studying through books at school.
We go out with the little ones to natural spaces, the countryside, the sea … hoping that the learning will be more experiential. May the nature you see generate questions and a thirst for learning.
And there we are, lurking, looking for the slightest opportunity to share knowledge and get it into their heads. Often a small child is observing a flower carefully and suddenly an adult (father, mother or educator) approaches, explaining the parts of the flower, or what species it is or the time of year in which it blooms … And we may end to break a unique moment in which that little one was enjoying the experience, perhaps in a semi-meditative state or was remembering something related to the flower … we do not know what was going through his little head.
Respecting these small observations of children without interrupting imparting knowledge or trying to generate an even higher expectation than the one the child already has is paramount. The little ones marvel at their surroundings constantly. Maybe it would be better not to interrupt, because those unique and important moments are fading . Thus, it also ends up losing the ability of human beings to be surprised and admire the environment, art …
Has it ever happened to you that you are amazed at an exuberant landscape of which you do not know any plant name but that invites you to relax and feel happy without more?
And what do you think if another adult arrives and begins to tell you the scientific name of each plant? Or the parts that it has? Well, the magic of the moment breaks, right?
The same is true of children.
But it is also that children are small and innocent, but not stupid. They realize very well that we are trying to teach them something . They may end up abhorring outings into the wild (or learning itself) if we constantly turn them into “educational outings.”
AND WHY DO WE ALWAYS WANT TO TEACH CHILDREN?
I think one reason may be that we have internalized the “education-boredom” binomial, something that perhaps comes from our own experience, and we try to take advantage of the most playful occasions to score and teach things in an entertaining way. But learning is fun in itself if the motivation is real and proper .
Another reason is that even if we want to believe it … deep down we think that if we don’t teach children things they will never learn them. But it is not like that. Children are constantly learning. We adults do it too. The experience is not only a great teacher but a generator of concerns . Let the children have many experiences and then support the various concerns that may arise from there. This is how these children will have real learning that will last.
When we talk about the importance of experiential learning, it does not mean that you have to take advantage of any child’s experience to teach him something. It’s not about that. Learning through experience is not the same as taking advantage of experiences to educate or teach. The grammatical difference is subtle but they are very different concepts. In the first, it is the child who observes, who draws conclusions and who directs their learning. In the second, it is the adult who transmits this knowledge (in a linear and unique way, generally).
Of course, I am not saying that an adult should never teach anything. But before teaching we must think about what experience the child is experiencing at that moment. Perhaps it is more important to leave space and time for him to live it and learn from it than not always impose knowledge, even if it is disguised behind an “experience” of the child.
Perhaps, it also occurs to me, we adults could learn from children’s observation skills and cultivate our own, to realize when it is appropriate to share knowledge or ask questions or, better yet, wait for them to ask us.
If we are truly concerned about their learning, I believe that as parents and educators we need to offer stimulating environments, offer them opportunities to stop and observe… and their own curiosity will lead them to chart a learning path.
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