Encouraging the Art of Self-Directed Learning in Kids

“I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they can learn”

The aforementioned quote by Sir Albert Einstein is one of my favorites!

As a learning evangelist, I always aspire to cultivate curiosity and independence in children because I firmly believe that it’s the first step for them to be self-directed learners. Children, during their early years of education, must be introduced to situations where they explore how to use resources to find answers to questions or to learn skills to solve problems.

Self-directed learners are not dependent on adults to help them complete tasks or projects. However, the assistance at certain levels is necessary.

Self-directed learning is not a trait that some children are born with and others aren’t; it is a skill that can be taught and nurtured in all children from a young age.

To experiment the same, we conducted an activity- SWAYAM at Sri Ram Foundation School in East Delhi.

We asked the students to create a room for themselves out of waste material- an effort they must consider being their dream project with a realistic deadline. From planning, delegating, basic structures, innovations to any kind of initiative, we gave children absolute independence to be able to curate their imaginations!

The best part of the activity was that it was completely taken up by the little ones, with assistance from our team only when requested.

The results have been astounding! It was an absolute delight to watch children exploring their potentials, putting in efforts to solve problems, creating opportunities for innovation and learning meaningfully with no stress through play.

Here’s why self-directed learning should be encouraged across the entire education sector, especially during the pre-school era-

IT IGNITES SELF-CONFIDENCE, INITIATIVE, PERSEVERANCE, AND SATISFACTION

When children are given control of a situation, they are likely to take up charge and create their own paths, thus inculcating leadership qualities and willingness to work in a team in them.

Self-directed learning evidently enhances a child’s ability to make self-affirming choices. The more we allow children to make their own decisions–with analyzing their own ideas, feelings, wants and needs and weighing them against available options, the more likely they are to grow into mature, sensible, productive and compassionate adults.

NO COMPETITION, BUT COLLABORATION

Children who are taught in their early years through self-directed learning are happier and more successful as they are not bound to be intellectually superior to others and negatively competitive. Their ability to grab hold of their ideas is mutually respected.

They are also better listeners and learners as they understand the concepts of cooperation and adorning other’s ideas at a tender age. Self- directed learning also helps the mind to be open and inquisitive.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IS ALWAYS MORE MEANINGFUL

A pre-defined curriculum, a standard set of rules, fixed timetables and the inability to consider individual interest can never allow an individual to be able to move towards self-directed learning.

It is always better to actually build and sail a boat rather than merely read about how others have done so, or by surveying a plot of the ground rather than simply calculating the area of a polygon presented on a worksheet. During practical application of these concepts, a child is likely to make mistakes and learn from them!

HAPPINESS BREEDS MORE HAPPINESS

With no impositions, children become free to create, discuss, negotiate, design, and explore to serve their goals and values.

People who pursued self-directed learning in their early years of education are likely to work collaboratively and empower others rather than seek power over others. People who understand the relevance of making thoughtful choices are more likely to support self-direction in others too.

I, therefore, wish to encourage all the parents, teachers and children to take up charge of their situations and promote self-directed learning in every possible way!

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Learning How to Learn

learning how to learn (3)

From where does education begin for a child?

As per my understanding as an educator and as a parent, real education begins before a person learns to speak and continues throughout their entire life.

Children learn through their surroundings and all their future success, happiness and forthcomings depend on their ability to learn from these surroundings.

We all have significantly observed that this ability is stronger in infants than adults. As we grow up and start dwelling ourselves into the prevailing education system, we start adopting clichéd methods of learning and ultimately what we gain is not wisdom but just information- an information that doesn’t stay with us and withers away in no time.

It’s crucial to understand that learning is the key to a child’s future. But did you know there are tricks to learn?

Have you ever thought of teaching them those tricks, those simple methods that can make learning a joyful experience for your child?

House of Learning has exclusively designed programs that make children and adults undergo the process of learning in the most systematic and organized manner.

Listed are a few pointers that we work on-

MAKING YOUR CHILD WANT TO LEARN

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Most of the times, the concepts, and learning structures are designed in a way that the learner starts finding ways to escape studying. The idea is to create the want in a learner to know and to gain knowledge.

If your child would want to learn something, they’ll do it in every possible way. We must make them believe that there’s no end to the plethora of knowledge in this world and thinking you know it all wouldn’t work.

The idea is to drive the urge for knowledge in them- learning will become fun in itself!

THE ART OF QUESTIONING

Learning is not only reading about anything and grabbing information. It is actually about studying and asking a lot of questions.

We must liberate the child to be open to clearing all their doubts while they learn- this will help them explore and discover more and more.

The problem that prevails is that people are not aware of the right way to study and therefore learning becomes difficult for them.

IT’S NOT ABOUT PASSING EXAMS

Are you telling your child to learn from a textbook because he/she has a test to pass?

The race to finish curriculums, score exceptionally great and be the topper of the class leads to practices like rot learning and muddling information.

Every child has a pace with which he/she learns- but the whole rat race finishes their thirst for knowledge and leaves them helpless.

HOW IS YOUR CHILD ACTUALLY LEARNING?

Someone has rightly said, if you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

It’s imperative to acknowledge that how we learn is a much more important question than why we learn.

There are some tricks and techniques that educators have to make learning an interesting endeavor for a child. Overcoming barriers that disrupt the learning process is an extremely important step.

The solution is to identify them. We have to follow the right process to learn anything.

House of Learning aspires to bestow the students and educators (be it parents or teachers) the gift of learning, the gift of wisdom!

Are You Teaching Your Child the Right Set of Values?

Punctuality, respecting others, obeying authorities, following orderly routines, honesty, orientation, curiosity, persistence, rigor of thinking- all parents and teachers spend their entire lives imbibing good values into children.

But don’t you think, when with changing times, we have evolved ourselves in all other aspects of life, we need to broaden our perspectives when it comes to teaching children the right set of values too, the ones that are the need of the hour?

I say so because as a human being, I’ve witnessed the changing times and as a learning evangelist and trainer, I have also seen how these times have significantly affected the entire arena of child development.

Times in which the parents and teachers of today have grown up are entirely different from those in which our children are growing up! Our everyday challenges, chores, tasks are not similar to the ones our children undertake now.

Therefore, when it comes to imbibing values in them, we need to work on the level of intentions rather than instructions.

As per my experience of years of interaction with children, parents, and teachers from all walks of lives, these are a few of the CORE VALUES that we must inculcate in our child’s life-

  1. THE VALUE OF EXPERIMENTATION (OR TRYING)

All children are born experimenters. It’s amazing how they keep experimenting with everything that comes in their way without any hesitation or fear.

But what happens to this fearlessness as they grow up? Are we putting too much pressure on them to follow the mainstream?

You must remember that the more the child tries, the more the child explores. The more the child explores that more the child learns. The more the child learns, the more the child gathers raw material and tools for life!

Therefore, teach your child to value experiment. Even if they fail, they’ll definitely learn.

  1. THE VALUE OF CONSCIOUSNESS (OR FEELINGS)

Is your child able to judge his/her own conscience or simply acts without thinking? That’s where feelings come into the picture!

You must teach your child to be conscious of his or her feelings. Let their awareness of their feelings be a guide to what they should do and what they should not do.

Once this awareness comes, their behavior automatically becomes more regulated and their days become more rewarding and joyous.

  1. THE VALUE OF REFLECTION (OR THOUGHT)

As a child learns to experiment and be conscious of those, it is equally important to imbibe the value of reflection in them.

Once they’re in a situation, teach them the value of reflecting on their actions and introspecting their decisions. This will help them be thoughtful, make better decisions and progress in life.

  1. THE VALUE OF OPENNESS (OR BEING NON-JUDGMENTAL)

Living in a world where a major chunk of people are following a standard set of rules and running in the rat race, we too limit ourselves, form opinions, create assumptions, jump to conclusions, develop preconceived notions and mentally block ourselves about things, people, and situations.

We open multiple pathways of growth and happiness when we move away from judgmental about what’s good or bad, right or wrong.

We must teach our children from the beginning the value of being effective and constantly improve themselves through being flexible and open.

  1. THE VALUE OF STRENGTH (OR PASSION)

We can’t possibly cut effectively from the blunt side of a knife and there’s no point sharpening it too.

You should rather further sharpen the sharp edge and to make it more incisive. Then with minimum effort, you will be able to create maximum effect.

Therefore, teach your child to be confident about their strength and passion. Valuing their strength will further boost their confidence to do exceptionally well.

More than teaching about honesty, responsibility, loyalty, humility, justice, respect etc., you should rather teach children these and let them experience, understand and choose whichever values they want to use to lead their own life with honor and happiness.

Why to “Be Curious”? How to “Be Curious”

“Be Curious”, said the master.

Why to “Be Curious”? How to “Be Curious”?

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

As I remember this famous quote by Stephen Hawking’s, I realize how relevant and powerful this stands until today! The immortal master who changed the way we looked at the universe still manages to inspire us in many ways.

Why is it crucial for your child to be curious? How can you inspire the urge to be curious in them?

Here goes my analysis-

Every child is a born explorer. We all have seen how during early childhood days, toddlers put anything in their mouths as soon as they see it, even if it’s dangerous. They want to feel, touch and taste all the objects they can hold, and enjoy sensorial experiences a lot.

We live in a world that is an endless source of wonder- the rotation of the earth on its axis, the sun and the moon, seasonal changes and so on! Researchers believe that some children possess a keener desire than others to explore their immediate surroundings.

Curiosity is a boon to a child and it undeniably ignites their creative spark. One thing inevitable to progress (be it for a child or an adult) is constant innovation and no innovation is possible without arousing curiosity at first.

But unfortunately, this natural urge to explore the surroundings dies with time. Formal schooling methods, the rat-race to be the topper, finishing the syllabus in time, fear of disapproval from parents and peers and unsafe environments gradually kill the importance of curiosity which once came naturally to children.

Children speak their curiosity if given a chance to. For instance, you visit any historical monument. After telling them about the beautiful architecture built thousands of years ago, you can ask your child – ‘There was no electricity or sophisticated engineering tools when these grand structures were carved. How did the craftsmen transport these stones and take measurements to build them?

This way, both your child and you can embark on a journey of learning together. It is natural that when you both imagine together, your child will truly enjoy learning. However, you need to keep in mind their age and not overload them with information.

I have a few points an educator can incorporate into their daily routines with children that’ll help them grab hold of their curiosity!

DON’T GET TIRED OF THEIR QUESTIONS. YOUR EXPRESSIONS WILL MATTER THE MOST

I understand a parent or a teacher goes through a roller coaster of emotions each day. Too many questions sometimes irritate you. However, try to calm yourselves and answer your child’s questions thoughtfully. If you don’t have an answer, take efforts to learn together from books, experts or the internet. This will bring a sense of comfort and openness.

ACCEPT THE WAY YOUR CHILD WANTS TO LEARN

Sometimes, we set unrealistic expectations for our children. We must encourage self-directed learning for them. What if your child spills the colors out of a circle while experimenting with crayons? We need not bind them into dimensions and let them explore the world their own way!

YOUR CHILD HAS AN INTEREST? FUEL IT.

If your child shows interest in a particular activity/object, leave no stone unturned to expose them to the same at higher levels too. Do not disapprove or discourage their ideas- this will instill a feeling of rejection in their psyche.

MAKE THEIR SURROUNDINGS SAFE

Here, I not only intend to focus on removing sharp objects, chemicals, dangerous objects etc. from their vicinity, but also we must try to make their surroundings safe by helping them stay amongst people who support self-directed learning (choosing pre-schools thoughtfully). You must also ensure that they do not experience abuse, ignorance or any form of violence.

NATURAL SURROUNDINGS WILL HELP THEM THE MOST

Television and mobile phones might have the ability to entertain your child, but the materials cannot be manipulated or questioned. Exposing your child to natural surroundings where they can collect sea-shells, play with pebbles, or do some sand art will help them learn the fun way.

 

House of Learning pays gratitude to Mr. Stephen Hawking for igniting the fire of curiosity in all of us!

 

 

That’s What the Education System Lacks

Recently, while delivering a talk at one of the reputed schools, a child from the senior grade raised his hand and asked me a question that made me ascertain some crucial aspects of the education system.

His question was, “What should I do for better grades?”

I asked why grades were so important to him to which he responded, “That’s how you get into a good college which ultimately gives you a stable job”.

I don’t need to emphasize the importance of education in building a strong nation! But there are loopholes that are destroying the actual abilities of children and killing their creativity as individuals.

Let’s have a look at some of them-

THERE’S NO ROOM FOR MISTAKES

As Jim Rohn has rightly quoted, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to set for the ordinary”.

Our education system follows the standard set of rules and regulations that have been passed over the generations. Mistakes and risks are the last things schools and parents allow the child to take.

How will children learn unless they don’t experiment? This ultimately forces them to follow the mainstream and shuns their ability to think out of the box.

THE FEAR OF FAILURE

Since childhood, we are forced to work hard on different subjects where we’re expected to score magnificently well in each one of them. What if the child is good at literature and mathematics doesn’t interest him/her?

But the kind of pressure and fear of failure parents and teachers inculcate in a child’s mind leads him/her to focus on abilities rather than the creative capacity and expertise.

Schools believe that it is imperative to create a standard curriculum for students to follow. However, it is not mandatory. Schools can create divisions depending upon different areas of interests which students can freely choose from!

STUDYING AND LEARNING ARE NOT THE SAME

Attending school, memorizing facts and reading lessons is entirely different from gaining knowledge and experiencing learning.

It is not important if a student is studying, he/she might learn out of it too.

Learning is an experiential concept. Being in environments that are learning-oriented, moving beyond textbooks and indulging into discussions is much more important than memorizing information.

STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE, NOT GRADES

Competition and comparison have led to severe problems. Students, from the very beginning, are encouraged to be amongst the “top five” in the class thereby, igniting the spirit of competition.

It is this pressure only that has led to suicide cases over the years.

Therefore, it is crucial to accept how every child is unique, has different interests and will find a way to a sustainable life.

The purpose of education is to bring out the best in a child. Let’s make sure they don’t lose themselves in the process!

 

 

 

 

Periods Aren’t Just About Bleeding Females. Here’s What We Actually Need To Talk About!

Whether it is about a 21-year-old woman dying in Nepal after she was forced to live in a hut due to the fact she was menstruating or about the little girl in Tamil Nadu who committed suicide after being reportedly shamed by her teacher for staining her clothes with menstrual blood in front of her class- menstruation continues to prevail as a curse to women!

Interestingly, many people from different walks of lives have talked openly about it in order to raise awareness and bust the myths and taboos revolving around it.

Recently, another feather added to this cap was the #PadmanChallenge- a marketing strategy used by the Padman Film’s Team in order to promote their film.

Before I raise my point here, I wish to state that I am not protesting against the movie. In fact, the portrayal of the real-life Pad Man and entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham was a much-needed effort.

All I wish to bring forth are the much more important aspects of menstruation that the society as a whole needs to focus on!

NOT EVERYONE USES SANITARY PADS

Did you know, of the 355 million menstruating women in India, only 12 percent use sanitary pads?

The rest switch to unhygienic alternatives such as clothes, ashes, and husk, thereby welcoming severe reproductive health problems.

Celebrities are highly influential people with massive reach and their practices are followed religiously. Maybe educating why holding a pad in hand is okay and distributing them to girls and women across the country would have been a much better alternative than just posing with them.

Educating the child about their use and benefits is what schools, colleges, and communities must encourage.

IT’S OKAY TO TALK OPENLY ABOUT THEIR BODIES!

Majority of women do not find themselves in a comfort zone when it comes to discussing their bodies and problems associated with it openly. How do we expect them to take care of hygiene and prevention of infections during periods?

It’s crucial to teach boys and girls in the early years of education itself how natural this phenomenon is and it’s perfectly normal and not shameful to discuss these issues openly!

WHAT ABOUT THE DISGUST THEY FACE?

A majority of girls, especially in rural areas do not attend schools while they’re menstruating because of the flak they draw from people around in case of an unlikely incident.

The tradition of disallowing them to enter religious places and kitchens is what makes the foundations of these myths even stronger!

PADS- BUT OF WHAT KIND?

Did you know, a woman on an average sheds 125 kilos of menstrual blood in all the years and these plastic pads take 500-800 years to recycle?

Can you even imagine the levels of environmental damage we’re causing because of it?

Use of alternatives like biodegradable pads, menstrual cups, cloth pads etc. needs to reach out to masses!

There’s much more to periods than just bleeding and posing. Holding a pad in hand doesn’t save women from all the health hazards, social stigmas, and humiliation.

Sonal Ahuja

Founder (House of learning)

Shri Ram Foundation Pre school’s vision.

We always felt that Shri Ram Foundation Pre School was the best place to develop each child’s unique potential to the fullest.  The question is, how does this beautiful concept relate to setting up a school? It turns out that, when you think of the notion of developing each child’s unique destiny, you realize that it connects directly to the great debate of Nature vs. nurture. And the fact is that, at least in this juncture in human history, no one has an answer to the question of which of these is the determining factor, or the most important factor, or what relative weight can be given to each one. Both factors seem to play a role. So, for us, the question became, how does the school environment relate to each of these two factors, assuming that they both play a role? How does the school environment help each child to realize their own destiny, whether you consider that destiny to be determined by Nature or by nurture?

Let’s consider Nature first. The argument is that a child’s potential and capabilities are largely determined by his/her genetic makeup. It’s something inherent in the child from birth. The idea is that each child is born with a certain innate configuration that gets actuated as the child matures into adulthood – like hair color or physical build. To the extent that this is true, then, the way to maximize a child’s ability to realize his/her own destiny is to let Nature take its course! It seems pretty obvious once you focus on what it means. If there’s a component of your destiny that’s inherent, the best way to assure that it will be realized is to let Nature do its thing undisturbed. That should happen without barriers, and with the patience necessary to let the natural processes unfold.

There’s a beautiful poem that came to my attention from Mary Oliver’s book Dreamwork that I would like to cite in this connection. It focuses on the damage that intervention can do to the natural unfolding. It’s called “The Journey”:

 

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations –

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save.

We invite you to Shri Ram Foundation PreSchool, to witness the journey of children already in our settings and be a part of the family. New batches are forming and are waiting with arms open to facilitate our lovely children.

See you soon

 

Shri Ram Foundation Pre School