Ways To Help Your Child To Learn Naturally

Learning doesn't need to be restricted to school! In fact a lot of brilliant learning moments can happen outside of school if you raise your child to be curious enough.

By Sriram Naganathan

Ways To Help Your Child To Learn Naturally
"Learning happens when it becomes a child’s need. And children will learn, no matter what, if they really want to learn something. You simply cannot stop them.’’

If you agree with that view of the legendary science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke, it is not difficult to look at the converse side: for any meaningful learning to happen, you need to first make it the child’s need.

For most children, ‘learning’ happens mainly in schools. Is it then possible to create a need for the child to learn in a classroom setting?

Consider the kind of tightrope walking today’s teacher is expected to perform in the classroom:

  • The teacher should know how to get the students to learn together despite differences in their intellectual capabilities, economic and social backgrounds, all of which impact what they can learn outside the classroom.
  • She should be capable of discerning the ‘uniqueness’ of each child. At the same time, she should reach out to the entire class where each child has a unique set of learning abilities. As any teacher would tell you, this is an impossible task.
  • Children now have unprecedented learning opportunities, thanks to the Internet, television and books. An ocean of knowledge surrounds them and facts and views are instantly available. No longer is the teacher required for imparting ‘knowledge’. Often, both are on the same boat.

There is another reason. For a child, learning how the world around her works is an integrated process. In the school-based learning model, the learning experience has to be necessarily broken into ‘subjects’, ‘chapters’, ‘periods’, etc., peppered with tests to decide if the child has been successful in learning different subjects. In fact, barriers between subjects are imaginary and not real. That is why Venkatraman Ramakrishnan studied physics, did most of his research in biology and won the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Given that it is difficult to effect a drastic change in the school system, can you as a parent, help your child learn the natural way?

Yes, you can.

You have to first figure out your child’s interests and his competencies.

To get to know his interests, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What makes him happy and feel good?
  • What are his favourite things?
  • What is it that he talks about a lot?

To get to know his competencies, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What is he good at doing?
  • What does the child like to do a lot?
  • What gets the child to try out new things?

Once you have a broad idea of your child’s interests and competencies, wait for the right moment to initiate your child into a theme or topic.

For example, when you are waiting at the traffic signal in your car, ask yourself aloud why many old people bend a little forward with hands folded behind while crossing the road. The idea is to get your child sitting next to you to observe the pedestrians and ask you ‘why’.

Ways To Help Your Child To Learn Naturally

If you know enough physics, you could start explaining the idea of gravity in a child-friendly way (see box). Else, you could become a fellow traveller for your child and together with her figure out from resources on the Internet or elsewhere that gravity is at play here. You could then deal with images of army commandos crawling on wooden planks over gorges instead of walking or running; young kids skating; a bus taking a tilted turn on a curved mountain path; and expand your child’s interest in gravity.

Will this not attract the child a little better than offering a dry definition of gravity and then explaining the same with examples from a text book?

Similarly, if your child were to ask you why the sky is blue during the day and black at nights, that is a great entry point to discuss distances between the sun, moon and the earth, the presence of dust particles in the atmosphere, why colours are visible only when there is light, etc. If your child were to ask you why hill stations are colder than plains despite being closer to the Sun, it opens immense possibilities to discuss topics such as atmosphere, pressure, temperature, etc.

A note of caution: do not jump to answer your child’s question, just because you know the answer. Nor suggest ‘googling’ straightaway. A better option is to be a fellow traveller, inquire further, refine the question perhaps in a manipulative way.

If the child were to ask you whether a plant would grow under tubelight and without sunlight, why not allow for an experiment for a week or two at home (in an otherwise dark room with only a tubelight) instead of looking for an instant answer? That way, both of you might discover many other properties of the plant. Resisting the temptation for instant gratification is a good habit not just in financial planning but in learning too.

When lead by his needs, the child’s learning process is many times more meaningful and coherent. It does away with unlearning and relearning the same lessons later in life, and several possible ‘Aha, I have it got correct this time’ moments. With need-based learning, the knowledge imbibed is there to stay.

Ways To Help Your Child To Learn Naturally
Ways To Help Your Child To Learn Naturally

Sriram Naganathan is the Founder of Ignite Minds, an education sector start-up and a resource person at The School, KFI.

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