Learning is Not Something
That's Done to Children

by Wendy Priesnitz

“You cannot teach a person anything;
you can only help him find it within himself.”
   Galileo

One of the fundamental aspects of life learning is contrary to one of the most basic assumptions our society makes about education. And that is that learning can and should be produced in people. This assumption is based on the idea that learning is the result of treatment by an institution called school...which is,  of course, one of the many conventional beliefs that life learning families are overturning.

Our culture assumes that people – especially children – do not want to learn and will not learn if left to their own devices. So children are forced to gather together in one place for long hours with others of the same age, so that they can be “educated.” Even many people who reject traditional schooling in favor of homeschooling believe that education must be “done to” children. They continue the process of manipulating children to learn, as well as judging and processing them in a variety of ways, then diagnosing them as having a problem or even an illness if they don’t learn what the adults have decided they need to learn.

Of course, people do learn in schools. However, most schools are not the only – or for many people, the best – environment for learning. And that is because they focus on teaching rather than on learning. Human beings do not need to be taught in order to learn. We are born interacting with and exploring our surroundings. Babies are active learners, their burning curiosity motivating them to learn how the world works. And if they are given a safe, supportive environment, they will continue to learn hungrily and naturally – in the manner and at the speed that suits them best. In fact, you cannot stop young children learning from everything they experience. They are always experimenting with cause and effect. And they are always soaking up information from their environment – learning to walk, talk and do many other amazing things.

next