We are born explorers. Babies and toddlers want to touch, see, smell, know everything! When they learn to crawl they stick everything in their mouths- testing out what is what. And as soon as children begin speaking, they start to ask questions. They want to know about their world.
As parents, we play a huge part in their exploration. I sometimes wonder how many construction sites my son and I stopped to watch. Fascinated by every digger and dump truck, we watched Bob the Builder and read countless books naming each machine.
When children are small, they choose what interests them. As a child gets older they are told, more each year, what they should know. Their time is now spent on what they need to learn.
Unfortunately, the journey into adulthood can dampen wonder.
On top of everything they need to learn, children are pressured by a Get it Done Culture to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can. They are encouraged to finish up, so they can move on to the next task, subject, and assignment.
I know this because as a teacher I hurried students, even when they were engrossed in projects I assigned and believed valuable. The bell rang, the six weeks was up, the test only allowed a certain amount of minutes, and we needed to move on because there was so much I was required to teach.
Preschool and Kindergarten encourage early reading and writing; curriculums encourage thick textbooks and workbooks; tests access how much a child knows, and they better know a lot of answers, before they can proceed.
The result- children can begin to dislike school, become disinterested in learning, seek distraction, become more interested in socializing (because it’s more fun or exciting). Ask a handful of high school students how many of them invest themselves in their assignments, novels, or the chapters assigned, and you’ll find many who don’t.
When any of us lack interest, are overwhelmed by amounts of information, don’t have time to ingest it all, or don’t see a purpose in what we’re doing, we lose motivation, may even seem lazy. To get it done, high school students, like many adults, find shortcuts. They do enough to pass, learn the information long enough to ace or pass the test, cheat, struggle, and continue to lose their interest and love of learning.
Many teachers work hard to overcome the boundaries of time and lack of interest. But when faced with the amount of information they are required to teach, the number of students in their classrooms, and the variety of ways a child learns, curiosities and interests can take a back seat.
Parents and teachers don’t have to wait for major educational reform to help children love to learn. The act of exploring, sinking into a topic, being immersed does not have to end in the toddler years or be reserved for after graduation.