Still(a)Life #23: Learning through Curiosity

If we listen closely enough, there are perhaps voices arising out of the uncharacteristically silent lockdown days, telling us things. This morning it was Josh playing chopsticks on an out of tune piano. When I stopped to listen, I realised he was starting to improvise. His usual busy self bursting into spontaneous melody. I found myself relieved that he has not had too much formal musical training yet. Something in him is developing through this free play. As Vygotsky wrote “In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” I found myself angry with how my child’s education has so often left him feeling smaller than himself, diminished, behind.

The silence is confirming for me that we need to rethink education, more so now than ever. I was trying to force Joshua to do his schoolwork and Fiona interjected, “let’s not call it that anymore, let’s call it learning”. We’ve made a new rule: if we can’t call it “learning” it has no place in our home. Learning is not about grades; worksheets; completing tasks; the successful regurgitation of facts. Learning is a process of making something part of who you are; the chance to enact something; demonstrate it upon the world. Learning is development that is born out of relationships with others and not an acquisition of knowledge through repetition. Learning is something you become not something you simply have to do. Think of how we learn a language or a musical skill. True learning doesn’t necessarily happen in a classroom or a place, it happens through play, enactment, often through struggle but not in the absence of passion and imagination.

Personally, I’m done with education. And if you have been trying to help your children learn from home, I bet that by now you are too? There is no child who is not, at first, curious about the world they are born into. We have an ownership to them to open every window we can to that world. A brand new world awaits them.

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