“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” ~Socrates
Children are born to be curious, sociable, skillful, joyful and empathetic. Their minds are creative and flexible, their hearts trusting and open. They come into the world with brains designed to learn from their local environment, to interact skillfully with the people and objects that surround them.
They enjoy experimenting with new things and investigating whatever interests them. They learn languages and gain new skills easily, as long as they are respected, assisted (when needed) and encouraged.
Maria Montessori understood this, and taught that the role of educators is to organize learning environments so that they facilitate self-discovery, creativity, concentration and collaborative exploration.
Children learn best when learning is meaningful, playful and self-directed. There is no need for constant control, monitoring, external rewards and punishments. In fact, such authoritarian efforts tend to deter children’s learning, deaden their natural motivation and curiosity.
They will put time and effort into mastering skills and helping one another. They have a natural desire to make things, to communicate, be creative and competent, sociable and successful.
Teachers and parents have an important role to play with this, but attempts to over-control the natural learning process will immediately begin to snuff it out. Rigid expectations, standardized testing and comparisons of children to one another is psychologically harmful, as no two children will learn in the exact same way or at the same rate.
Provide extra help for those who are struggling, but make sure it’s done with love, respect and good intentions. Bottom line, children lose interest when adults are too rigid, authoritarian and controlling.
They need to be free to learn.