Monday, October 04, 2021

When We Speak With Children As People


People often ask me if there is a particular curriculum to which I ascribe. More often than not, when I answer that it is up to the children, I can tell they are frustrated. They think I'm being rhetorical. Certainly, there must be some sort of pre-determined course of study. After all, that's how school worked for most of us. It's what school is.

Of course, maybe I ought not call what I do "school" at all. Maybe I ought not call myself a "teacher." I mean, those terms take people down the wrong path. I could instead call it "a place for children" and label myself "facilitator," but if they already think I'm being opaque, that won't clear things up. 

I most often use the term "play-based curriculum," which at least speaks to people who already know a little something about our field, but I've found that for most folks, that's a lot like saying, "We're a crunchy granola hippy school." They smile -- sometimes warmly, sometimes dismissively -- then move on to another topic. "Self-directed" learning is another descriptive phrase I try out at times, but again, it requires a great deal of explanation.

In other words, there are no short-cuts to explaining what we do to the uninitiated, which is most people.

I think that's because no matter what we say about curriculum or education or learning or school, we are speaking with people who don't see children the way we do. Most of the world views children as perhaps cute and necessary, but otherwise small, incompetent, untamed, undisciplined, and ignorant. They might love children to death, but even the best of us tend to feel that without constant adult guidance and instruction, they will grow up to be entitled brats incapable of fitting into society.

When talking about what we do, it seems to me that this is really the place to start -- with the children themselves, not the "curriculum." Because if more people understood children the way we do, as competent, self-directed, curious and eager to satisfy that curiosity, that they are wired to learn about the world around them, how it works, and how they fit into it, then what we do with them as play-based educators would be so self-evident that it would require no explanation.

As humans, the way we regard one another shows up in the way we speak with them. When we listen to adults engaging with children, we most often hear the language of command, of disbelief, and of doubt, all of which tells us that the adult perceives themself, no matter how kindly their tone, as being superior to the child. When we hear adults scold, cajole, and constantly question, we see adults that see children as needing to be kept on a particular course, one that is best determined by that adult. 

If there is one thing that stands at the center of my approach to children it is this: the way we speak with children creates reality. And the reality most adults create is one that requires "school" and "teaching" and adult-mandated curricula. The problem is that even for those of us who truly view children as fully-formed, competent human beings, we continue to create that more dystopian reality through the way we speak with children.

In my e-course, The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think, we take a deep-dive into the language we use with children and how even small changes can result in major changes in how children engage with their world, other children, and the adults in their lives. It is an approach, through language, that respects children, freeing them to satisfy their curiosity, which is the instinct to learn made manifest. It frees children think for themselves, which is ultimately what we want for all children.

When we speak with children as people, as trusted colleagues, rather than mere children, we open a door of epiphany. As I wrote last week, it will look to the uninitiated like magic, but it is really the application of knowledge for practical purposes, which is the definition of technology. 

Until the revolution comes, we may always find it difficult to explain what it is we do, but we, through the language we use, have the power of shaping a freer, and better reality for the children in our lives. And that is everything for those children.

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The language we use creates reality. In this limited registration course we will explore how the way we speak with children creates an environment in which cooperation and peacefulness are the norm, where children take the initiative, solve their own problems, and, most importantly, think for themselves. Click here for more information and to register.

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