Learning from sun up till sundown. That’s what small children do. Everyday they busily seek out and learn from everything they can reach to see, hear, feel, smell or taste. They engage with people and objects to explore what impact they can have upon them. It’s an effort to understand and exert some kind of control over things in their worlds. Sometimes they succeed in their endeavors; they often fail. Regardless, the learning never stops and they are always fully present in each moment.
We can learn from these littles’ learning pursuits.
The difference between being in a place and creating from that place is found in taking action. Children’s exploratory actions may be random at first, but they soon develop an agenda, a mission.
People who have found their passion, what Sir Ken Robinson calls their element, and have pursued it in their life’s work are rewarded with a natural extension of their childhood’s daily learning frenzy. Like small children, they are virtually tireless in their quest to engage with that topic or activity. Wherever they go, they discover new aspects of this passion for extending their mastery and outlets for their unique self-expression.
This is the single goal of public education that we must never abandon.
So how do we make sure all children become pursuers of their passions through lifelong learning?
I believe it’s all about choice.
We must teach children to seek out new possibilities and to choose those which inflame their curiosities and light up their imaginations, those which invite and drive active exploration and engagement. We also must help create for them a path to lifelong readership. We must invite and lead children to make choices in their reading. At some point, they will find and reject books based upon authorship, topic, genre. At another point, having honed their ability to make good choices (often by making many bad ones) they will each find their niche—that writer, subject, information load, graphic appeal or genus that wraps around their hearts is a restless space from which to continue to learn.
Children’s personal passions will ultimately guide them more or less directly to books in which they can find resources that stimulate and speak to their developing inner expertise, to their ever smoldering passions.
Lifelong choosing to learn must be the hallmark of successful schooling.