If we had been taught in childhood, by our parents and teachers, to honor the activities and interests that naturally ignited our curiosity, and to spend more time doing those things and less time frustrated with topics and exercises that bored and frustrated us, we wouldn’t have such a hard time answers the question: “What is your purpose?”
The entire self-help and life coaching industry has proliferated because of a sense of emptiness and a sense deep down that we are “made for something more.” I know, as a yoga studio owner and teacher of a style of yoga known for its life transforming programs, that for most of us it is far easier to list what we don’t want, than what we do want.
Our problem is not that we lack the energy or resources to pursue our greatest joy. Our issue is that we can’t find it. And, I believe it’s because our uniqueness, our greatest gift, our clearly lit path to happiness and authentic success has been educated out of us.
That was my major “aha” moment this week after listening to Episode 35: “We are Teaching Children Not Curriculum” with Greta Harman, board certified educational therapist.
In the episode, Harman says, “What we need to start doing is give agency as much as possible back to our children, and allow them space to really direct their own learning based on their interests.”
And to do this, we have to let go of our attachment to the way school is supposed to look, and our fears about guiding our children’s education in a completely new way. This isn’t about updating the current educational model, it’s about shattering it, and standing in an entirely new paradigm for learning.
“We need to practice our flexible thinking…so that our children learn to do that and not get fixed on a right or wrong way,” says Harman.
A very wise teacher at my daughter’s school told me that children have a window of time – pretty much up until seven years of age – in which they form the emotional intelligence for their entire lifetime.
“They can always learn the 3R’s,” she said. “But if they don’t develop emotional wisdom by then time they’re in grade school, they can’t add it in later. We could teach three-year olds to read and do math, but we don’t. And that’s why.”
I totally trust that my child will become more than competent in reading, writing, math, science and the other skills and information that we’ve deemed should be part of a well-rounded school curriculum. And I wouldn’t remove them. Its, as Harman says, not so much what you’re teaching, but how you’re teaching. Are you pushing facts, figures and measurements? Or are you investing your children with curiosity, deeply observing and listening to what lights them up and gets them focused, and encouraging that? Can you let go of how and when they learn certain things?
We have an opportunity to re-create our children’s “school learning” this Fall with many of our kids at home, attached to online classrooms. While we can’t change what’s presented through their screens, we can made a world of difference in how our child’s learning takes shape in their day-to-day lives.
Is your child obsessed with space travel or aerodynamics? Does he or she spend hours building things or trying to figure out how stuff works? Does your child obsessively read, hiding books in bed and staying up until the wee hours? Does he or she have a love of music, rhythm and dance? Does you child’s imagination take them on wild flights of fantasy that they can act out with costumes or puppets? Do you have a budding scientist with a fascination for chemistry or weather or animals?
This fall, take time to notice when your child gets engrossed in a lesson or subject, and when they check out and get bored or act out. This is a huge clue to where their authentic passions lie.
Encourage your child to dive deeper – outside of their virtual classroom – into researching or recreating in their areas of deep interest. Praise their efforts in these areas. Let it be ok if a certain subject doesn’t light them up right now.
If you have grade-school age children, encourage them to create subject specific projects or reports to share with the whole family.
Share your own passion projects with your kids and spouse. You may find latent joys come to life. And who knows, it might even improve your marriage during this tension-filled times.
If your kids have been acting out during the pandemic, shifting to “teaching to your child, not a curriculum” could provide immense relief.
When my daughter is authentically interested in a project or activity, she’s not only 110 percent engaged, she starts spontaneously creating and expanding the exploration of the topic. Conversely, when she feels forced into an activity, or is floundering in boredom, look out! A meltdown and manipulative, loud, obnoxious behavior is on its way!
Harman shares about her daughter and how she was labeled with all sorts of behavioural disorders, when what was really going on was that her daughter’s special way of being in and experiencing the world was not being seen or honored.
It doesn’t matter what your child’s learning style, speed or path looks like – stop comparing your kid to other kids or what your education looked like or what you think it should look like. Because when we homogenize learning, we wipe out our connection to the very purpose that later in life we may so desperately seek.
If there were one parenting victory I could imagine for myself and my child, it would be that when she is 20 years old and someone asks her what her “why” is, that she instantly answers with clarity, energy, passion and purpose – that it’s a “no-brainer.”
35: We are Teaching Children, Not Curriculum – Greta Harman, Executive Director and Board Certified Educational Therapist