My American readers may do a bit of a double take when I tell you that it’s been snowing lately! Actually, we seldom get snow in Oamaru, so it’s very exciting when we have even a little bit. Our two-year-old has been running around the house shouting “No! No!” as usual, but in this instance it happens to mean “snow”.
Not that that’s the only new word he’s been learning. He just seems to soak up words like a sponge these days. And he’s no prodigy. Research has shown that children of his age typically add to their speaking and listening vocabularies at the rate of ten words a day. And they do it almost without visible effort, without mental strain, without any incentive other than their own boundless thirst for knowledge.
Learning is so natural at that early stage. I’m convinced that the key to success in educating children is to let that freedom and ease flow on, and not be sidetracked into the thinking that when they reach a certain magical age, they’re suddenly only ‘learning’ if they’re sitting at a desk doing something they don’t want to do. I’m not denying that it does get harder than that, that there is serious study that needs to be done eventually, depending on the calling and direction in life they are following. The trouble is, for most children at school – and, I fear, in some cases of ill-informed ‘home schooling’ – there is so much pressure to be studying at such a young age that by the time they reach the stage where it could be of real benefit, they are already burned out.
Here’s the good news: Multitudes of home educators begin with the mistake of trying to do ‘school at home’, but the vast majority realize the error of their ways before it’s too late. Might just have something to do with the fact that they are not getting paid, that they have no management to deal with, and that their only incentive (if you can call it ‘only’) is the aching of their hearts for the people who mean more to them than anything else in the world.
Wherever you are when you read this, I hope there are some snowdrifts, or piles of leaves, or fields of flowers, that you can go and roll in with your children. People learn when they are happy. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.