You can’t teach education!

Just in case you’re worrying your children are not going to be learning anything over Christmas I thought I’d winter 2013 015mention something: You can’t really teach education – did you know that?

Just as you can’t ‘teach’ a plant to grow you can only set the right conditions for it to grow itself, you cannot ‘teach’ children education you can only provide a stimulated, enriched, encouraging climate for children to develop educationally.

You can teach facts – or try to. If the child’s not receptive no amount of ‘teaching’ will put facts there. You can demonstrate skills, but they need practise them to master them. You can make knowledge and skills part of the climate in which education develops. But you can’t force them. And anyway, they are only of value to an education when a person experiences and starts to use them. Experience being the most important factor in an educationally stimulating climate.

The nature/nurture argument shows better what I’m getting at. For ages it’s been debated whether the biggest influence on the way we are comes from what we have in us already (genetically, the nature part of the debate), or whether it comes from the environment in which we grew up (the way we’re nurtured). Now though, it is understood that it’s not those two elements – nature or nurture – in themselves that determines how we will be. It is the interaction between the two that is the crucial determinant.

That also applies when we’re developing our children’s education.

It’s not the facts and figures, knowledge and skills alone which make a person educated, it is to do with the interaction their character has with those things; the climate in which they’re learning, with the experiences they have along the way, the manner in which it’s approached and our interaction counts too.

Action (or experience) and interaction are more important than subject matter and teaching as John Holt pointed out; “Learning is the product of the activity of the learners”. (See more fascinating educational quotes here)

So what can we do as parents to help our children become the educated people we want them to be?

We can provide meaningful experiences, powerful support, a warm and encouraging environment, the opportunity to interact in as many ways as possible with as wide a variety of people and the widest variety of approaches to life and learning as possible, and the guidance and help they need to become the people they want and need to be.

We can also stop trying to ‘teach’ education and understand that it cannot be forced, but will grow perfectly well in a rich and stimulating, warm and loving climate.

Lots of opportunity for that over Christmas!


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