An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

How much instruction do children really need?

In Education, parenting on January 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Meet the ipod generation: A friend of mine came over to visit with his family for the first time. Our families hadn’t met before. My daughter and his son needed no introduction. They both happen to have their parents iphones and sat next to each other playing away. So much for social skills?! Maybe that was supposed to be their ice-breaker activity. A teacher I know of said she is using her third iphone as the other two were broken by her two year old son. Thanks to the educational apps by apple, he is ahead of his older sister and knows all his numbers and letters. I’ve never been a fan computer gaming. I still dont understand how friends my age and older spend hours on their wii. Something I find interesting though is I never taught my daughter how to use the ipod. Yet she knows exactly how to view photos, download and play apps. I’m interested to learn about the new iBook for the ipad and see how that takes off in the next year. Another thing i thought was interesting was two weeks ago when we went to the library, she decided to take her scooter with her. Most of the thirty minutes we walked there she was playing catch up. This weekend however, as we walked to the library, she was leading the way on her scooter. That was fast learning given she hardly rides it.

So how much instruction do kids really need? If the goal is to create functional literates who are educated enough to do a job but not think creatively or critically, then I would say the more instruction the better. In his post ‘becoming a creative minority’ Jeremy wrote of the importance of self nurture “To move from teaching to educating requires that we foster the ability in our children to learn for themselves through the awakening and activation of their own faculties.” I’m sure he feels instructions and direction are important in this process. Interestingly, Homer-Larry Merculieff in his TED talk, (see post Child rearing wisdom of the Native Alaskans) said he wasn’t given any instructions at all as the adults understood children will pick up what the needed when the time was right for them. They gave space for the child’s intuition and witnessing faculties to develop.

Some would say, how would self learn Mathematics for example? You need instruction, somebody explaining and telling you about the subject. I would argue that isn’t always true. Inquisitiveness can be the basis of learning and creativity in my experience. In such a process instruction is minimal – may be a sentence or two every week. That’s how I learned trigonometry in year 9 and won a signed book on raising the mystical significance of numbers in the Pyramid. My teacher’s name was Mr Jastrazembski. A polish Cambrdige Maths graduate who smelled of coffee and cigarettes. He had spent, so he said, some years in the Himalayas- meditating I suppose. Anyway, he ended up teaching in a school in Hackney, one of the poorest borough in London. He was no doubt a Mathematician in the true sense of the word. Other teachers would say of him ‘ we can’t debate with him- he’s ahead of us all’. So once upon a time, I finished my work and began pestering him. He decided to give me a year 11 investigation on Pyramids and asked me to work out the height. I didn’t have a clue about how to do it. i didn’t even know what trigonomtery was. Over the weeks, I investigated and showed him my work every now and then. I was able to teach myself under his direction. This idea isn’t new. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development suggests teaching at level 1 and assessing at level 2 or 3 – in other words throwing learners in the pit and alowing them to work their way out of it. That in his view is when the greatest learning takes place.

An interesting talk is given be educational scientist Sugata Mitra on his experiments in self teaching. What he essentially found was that by placing a computer in a village, where children hadn’t used a computer before, and left for 3 months – they were able to teach themselves not only how to use the computer but also English and Biotechnology. Although what the children were learning isn’t an embodied knowledge in the traditional sense, it does point to something interesting. Collaboration and the nature of consciousness to re-organise itself on its own accord. I don’t think Mitra would have got the kind of results he got had he given all the children two hours of daily computer classes with aim of passing an exam at the end.

So how much instruction do children really need? It depends. For me the pressure of time is a key factor. Notice in both Mitra, Merculieff’s and indeed my own experience of working on the Pyramid problem, there wasn’t a target to be achieved by x-months. Learning was simply allowed to happen and took place. I do feel the pedagogy of the future will be based on consciousness; awareness, presence and Being. Teachers will have to be educators (in the original sense of the word) to work at that level. The least that I envisage happening is that students will design their own curriculum and will have far more choice in what, when and how they learn. Learning will be far more intrinsic and creativity will be a much recognized quality. A first class degree my not hold as much value as China will become the number English speaking country in the world. May be 2012 will bring a shift of time in our collective consciousness as there was a shift of space during the Renaissance which gave rise to beautiful works of art and architecture.

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