Rightio, I had all the worksheets printed and ready to go. Clipboard? Check. Pencils? Check. Erasers? Check. Enthusiastic child? Check. Well…kind of.
Clay was excited about going to the aquarium, but seemed less so once I went through the worksheets. I wasn’t asking him to do much, a few pages, and he got to choose which ones he wanted to do, I wasn’t being unreasonable. A trip to the aquarium was expensive, it couldn’t just be a fun day out, we needed to do some learning today!
What. A. Nightmare. One word answers, copying exact sentences, scribbly illegible hand writing. And then he got all stroppy at me when I erased a few words and asked him to re-write them.
He wanted to go home.
Well that was a waste of money!
Clay and his friend were so excited. The King Tutankhamun exhibit had been a long time coming, they were skipping this way and that, and we hadn’t even gone in yet!
The doors open and they scooted around the first section, calling excitedly to each other “Come look at this!!”, “Whoa!!”. They were reading, listening, watching…and learning. All without a worksheet in hand, no pre-exhibit planning, no assignments, no post-exhibit test looming.
Who would’ve thought.
It made me smile, to see Clay so enthusiastic, so excited, chatting after we left and for well over a week afterwards about all the things he had seen and learnt.
It was an awesome day.
I cringe looking back, now, how I killed any sense of wonder, any free range learning, by forcing him to do worksheets and research before and after going to places like the aquarium, the zoo, a play. I mean, think about it, I come to you and say “Hey! Want to come to the movies with me? But hang on, you have to do this worksheet first, analyse the film afterwards, there’ll be a test too…”.
Seriously? No thanks.
Why do we find it so necessary to check boxes? To have someone else tell us what is important to know? I’ll tell you why.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that without being forced, without being coerced or bribed, we would not learn, would not want to learn. But that simply isn’t true! When a child is interested in something, stay with them in that moment, be engaged with them, converse, ask questions, offer information.
And if a child isn’t interested? Well, please think about that, do we really believe that forcing a child to fill out a worksheet is going to miraculously make it interesting? Make them retain information about a topic they do not care for long term?
And if not long term, if the information is not valuable enough for them to retain and build on, why are we so fixated on having them “learn” it?
Oh yeah, to tick boxes.
So next time you’re trying to steer your child down a road they are uninterested in, check yourself, ask why, throw the boxes out the window and instead just be present.