Expanding our View of Learning

Schooling is not learning.

The School System is the institution that enforces the compulsory education laws of states, provinces, and countries. Schools are places where learning may or may not occur.

What is Learning?

Learning is often defined as a relatively lasting change in behavior that is the result of experience. Learning happens when a person is able to do something that they weren’t able to do before.

Humans are Designed to Learn

Humans are designed to learn.

Babies learn my watching and imitating older people who are modeling movement and language skills. Most babies learn to sit, crawl, walk and talk without anyone teaching them. Learning to speak is the most difficult cognitive task that humans encounter.

We are learning all the time.

From the moment we wake up until we close our eyes at night, we are learning. And perhaps we even learn and integrate our learning in our dreams.

Formal vs. Informal Learning

Many people seem to think that formal education within a school institution where a teacher is leading the educational activity is the only worthwhile educational endeavor.

With the explosion of information available on the Internet, free MOOCs, games-based learning, Maker Clubs, 3D printing, it’s time to expand our view of learning to include informal learning, self-directed learning, modeling, mentoring, curiosity, nature connection, internships, and apprenticeships.

When one has an expanded view of learning, then the fear over when and how a child learns to read, write or multiply diminishes. Why? Because the 3 Rs are a very small part of education. And they are best learned by doing integrated projects of the child’s own choosing.

In fact, during the past 10 years, scientists have made extraordinary discoveries about how the brain works and develops. And none of these discoveries show that it is beneficial for a child to learn to read and write before the age of 8 or 9. In fact, it can be detrimental. Learning to read is a right-brain, creative endeavor. Reading is a left-brain more logical endeavor. By forcing children to learn before they are ready (and note, some children are ready and learn at a very early age), we are suppressing their right-brain imaginations and un-naturally favoring their left-brain functions.

For example, take an 8-year old learner who is a blossoming reader and writer and is following her natural path of learning as the brain and eyes develop and reading and writing is naturally emerging. As she chooses, on her own and in a group of natural learners, projects which capture her interest and imagination — creating an eco-fashion store, exploring who invented words, studying horses — these explorations will expand her ability to read, write and do arithmetic in the natural course of learning.

Contrast this with a fear-based schooling model where parents are being told that they must get their 3 and 4 year-olds ready for kindergarten… Really? Why does a five year old need to learn to read and write? “Because if they don’t learn the basics now, they will be left behind.” Really? What science proves that? The answer: None!

“Imagination is more important than intelligence.” – Albert Einstein

Let’s allow children to flourish naturally, growing their amazing imaginations until they are ready to switch to more left-brain, logical reasoning. And then, we may have a generation of brilliant entrepreneurs who can solve the problems that past generations have created.