Every Child Innately Knows How to Learn- By Playing!

18 February 2011 Categories: Blog, unschooling

Laurie's son, Brycen in 2005

Have you ever pondered the redundancy of certain quotes commonly used by the education institution? For example, “Try to learn something new every day”. Have you ever tried NOT to learn something new every day? Is it even possible to NOT learn something daily? How about, “Children need to arrive at school ready to learn”. In my opinion, it is precisely when children arrive at school that beneficial, relevant learning stops!

Another common education quote that makes me shake my head is, “Children need to learn how to learn”! Are you aware of any child that actually doesn’t know how to learn? I read a magazine article in high school (on my own time, of course) about a child born with only a brain stem and flipper-like protrusions for arms and legs. He had no cerebrum, which is the vital organ of basic and advanced physical, emotional and cognitive functioning. His adoptive parents were told he would never do any more than lie motionless in a crib, nonvocal, in a vegetative state. This family had also adopted other children labeled as severely disabled. One day, one of this child’s  siblings who was also challenged with partially missing limbs removed him from his crib and laid him on the floor. Imagine their parents surprise when they came into the room after hearing banging noises, only to find their supposedly vegetative son vocalizing in delight, moving on the floor and pushing open a door with his sibling! This remarkable child learned by observing his siblings how to be mobile even though he was equipped with only a brain stem! If we have any brain hardware at all, it is impossible NOT to learn!

Humanity unschooled children alongside our other mammal cousins for millennia, but we lost our way as industrialization set in. When it became culturally imperative for people, especially children, to be controlled by various governments and work, class, race, military and consumerist agendas, forced schooling was a perfect way to slowly melt down the mind and spirits of children, dulling, diluting, taming, subduing and anesthetizing human creativity, thought, invention, inquiry, freedom, joy, passion and wildness. By regimenting and breaking the body and indoctrinating and coercing the mind, we have actually created a society of people who behave as if they cannot learn and are thus “learning disabled”.

As the radical unschooling movement takes hold, more and more questioning families are discovering that children and adolescents learn best by playing and by following their innate interests and passions. Play is nature’s way of educating young brains; school proponents who believe they have to “teach children how to learn” are ignorant of basic child brain development and learning theory. Society is slowly learning from research, observation, empathy and by tuning back into nature that children learn best by NOT being taught, but by being allowed the freedom to feel joy and inspiration. Children learn by being exposed to opportunities, resources, mentors and guides that inspire them to invent, question, inquire, experiment, read, create, muse, explore and wander. It is amazing to watch our brainiac culture having to come full circle to learn these obvious basics!

To those enlightened Attachment Parents who are watching, it must be awe-inspiring how the more technical, “advanced” cortex-oriented and “intelligent” that humans became, the more we lost our humanity, our lifeline to the Earth and our basic innate intuition. Now, humanity is realizing that to be intelligent, to be advanced, to be whole, we must recognize our oneness with nature and our desperate need to be in harmony with it. Unschooling is the natural next step in Attachment Parenting!

2 Responses to “Every Child Innately Knows How to Learn- By Playing!”

  1. Kelly 20 February 2011 at 5:17 pm (PERMALINK)

    Another wonderful piece, Ms. Couture. I am putting you in my feed reader!

    “Play is nature’s way of educating young brains; school proponents who believe they have to “teach children how to learn” are ignorant of basic child brain development and learning theory.”

    Not a day goes by I don’t hear a grownup say something along these lines. Yes, they are ignorant, but it also always sounds so adultist, arrogant, and limited. The truth is we adults can learn more and benefit by observing free children. It’s too bad very few children are allowed this life – but, as you say, the movement is growing.

    It is interesting to me that Attachment Parenting often seems to dry up, in aggregate, as children approach toddlerhood. It’s my impression that AP is talked about relatively often even in the mainstream, but unschooling/life learning is still thought of as quite fringe (or worse). I’ve thought this had something to do with the fact that toddlerhood is when children begin asserting their personhood in ways vocal and that include an increased mobility as well, etc. Parents/carers/adults are challenged by these changes and instead of digging deep and learning more, revert to authoritarian mindsets and worldviews (which are the norm). I’d be very interested if you have any thoughts – it’s just a few impressions I have.

    Thank you for this piece!

  2. nancylee 13 March 2011 at 3:06 am (PERMALINK)

    just stumbled here- i had an experience with my 8 year old unschooled son that i wrote about on my blog a few days back. maybe if you have a spare minute you could zip over there…it illustrates your point well, me thinks.

    your words give me support.


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