What should we teach our children? Research shows that 80% of the facts we learn for tests are forgotten in a month. We remember best that information with which we have an emotional connection. It’s a lot easier to remember your birthday than the year of the Battle of Hastings. 1066, in case you’re wondering.
If we don’t emphasize memorizing facts in our teaching, what should we teach?
First, let me say that facts are important. Having a base of knowledge gives us some tools with which to think and do things. Actually, I’ve told students, we don’t have to learn our math facts. We could carry around a chart with the facts or carry a calculator. But if we don’t have our chart or calculator with us at a critical time, what do we do? If not knowing is painful, and knowing helps us, we discover that memorizing key bits of information makes us more efficient in our thinking and doing. Having certain information and skills at our fingertips makes doing more fun.
Teaching and learning. Two entirely different activities. Remember, we are rearing adults, not children. What we teach in our schools too often depends on what we want our students to know instead of what they need to know. That raises the big question: what do our children need to learn to become fully functioning adults?
Helping our children possess certain qualities might serve our job best, qualities such as having the ability to make good decisions; loving to learn; understanding how one learns; dealing with change; making choices; setting goals; and much more. With these qualities learning becomes like breathing, something we don’t even have to think about.
Over the next few posts we’ll address those qualities our children should learn and how we might teach them. We’ll start with learning to make good decisions.
Learning to make good decisions is acquired by making poor decisions, and figuring out on our own how to turn it around.
We learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. When confronted with a problem that we have to figure out over the course of a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or a few months, we gain not only knowledge but wisdom.
By allowing our children to get clear and accurate information about their interactions with their environment of people, tools, nature and ideas,(which may be learning the hard way that the stove is hot), we start them on a path of learning to decide independently how they will act.
With our young children we’ve removed many feedback loops for learning and thus to making decisions, good or bad. Preschool administrators comment on the growing number of 3-year-olds who aren’t toilet-trained. Comfortable diapers remove feedback to the child about their actions or lack of action. Plastic tip-proof covered cups prevent spills along with preventing feedback on the fine motor control necessary to drink from a glass. A diet of finger foods prevents learning how to use a fork, knife and spoon, perhaps for a lifetime.
Within the limits of safety, learning to make good choices begins with clear and accurate information about personal interactions within one’s environment.
Learning to make good decisions is based on having good information. Take a few minutes today, and think about how you might change a child’s environment in order to give the child clear, accurate and timely information.
Wise decision-making is at risk.