The answer is not that children have a greater capacity for learning, as this is just a naive excuse for not uncovering the deeper issues.
The playground: a place where kids play with each other, learning how to communicate, run, have fun, and dream. It was the place I spent hours catching butterflies, looking at flowers, staring at clouds, and climbing trees. It was the place where I made my first friends, played my first basketball game, and fell off the slide.
But somewhere along the line, I traded in the playground for a textbook.
In middle school, I remember waking up at 7 in the morning, turning on my computer, and exploring the internet, playing games, learning how to code, or learning how to do photo manipulation because I was utterly fascinated with what I was exploring. I found such joy in learning things because everything seemed so new, so fresh, so unexplored, and I could learn about anything and everything my heart desired to know.
I found myself immersed in graphics, design, photography, web, and music to the point where I would spend all my spare time browsing web tutorials, talking to people, maintaining my website, recording music, or anything else that I felt like learning.
Children are able to learn much faster because their learning is natural and they haven’t fallen into the rigid structure that we call school. Children have a tendency to explore and question things, because of utter fascination with the world around them. They haven’t been taught frameworks of Cornell notes, scientific method, Socratic method, grade point average, or other systems that we have been forced to use in school.
To every young child, a desire to learn is given by default. Only after years of school do questions turn from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Will this be on the exam?”
I never took a formal class on web development. All my understanding of web development has come from building websites with the help of some friends. And ironically, I can remember details of PHP code that I learned on my own four years ago much more clearly than what was on the midterm I took last week.
Children are creative. We can either allow them to think for themselves through their innate creativity, or endlessly spend money and time trying to teach them how we think. One of these methods is a low cost way that creates a diverse, innovative world, while the other is an expensive, time consuming process that tries to force everyone to be the same.
Children take learning as a part of daily life, while adults see learning as a textbook in a classroom. Children see learning as a playground, a sandbox where they can create whatever they want.
And as I grew up, I had to fight against the current of conformity by regularly exploring topics that no one made me explore in to keep my childhood curiosity. I developed methods of minimizing my time spent on schoolwork in order to maximize my self-directed learning time by taking control of my own time, instead of allowing external systems control my time.
A video I made in a span of a year completely on my own.
Only within the last year was I able to put words to my mindset that I was so regularly living by. My childlike dreams and desires to learn things beyond what was required of me have given me the best adventures learning material I will never forget, unlike most of the lessons that were taught in classrooms.
My next dream is exactly that. To bring out the natural tendencies that children have to explore and learn, and to empower that rather than smother it. To encourage my ten year old self and the ten year olds in others to keep dreaming and exploring, and to never let go of that childlike passion.
I’m done with textbooks and scantrons. I’m going to go play in the playground.