Much of the world will agree that education is an important goal for people and societies. But how best to achieve this goal? In order to mass produce education for large populations, governments began building institutions for education – schools. Needless to say, these schools are stationary buildings where children gather to obtain knowledge. These institutions for learning were started back in the days before communication was readily available, mostly by horseback (The Pony Express) or pigeon messengers. At this time, the majority of the population was illiterate, so the teachers were a truly valuable resource with new knowledge that could not be passed on by the parents of the children. Even so, children were often kept home from school to tend to the farm and/or family business as they needed to learn these valuable life skills in order to continue sustaining the family.
Much has changed in our world since these days. Science has advanced our understanding of the world immensely. Transportation has exponentially improved. And communication is now via satellite and around the world in a matter of seconds. What an amazing day and age to live in!! And yet, education still involves sending children to an institution to be given information which we have available at our fingertips almost worldwide. Teachers do an amazing job given all of the regulations and limitations that are placed on them, but our educational systems are falling behind on expectations. This is simply because the system is antiquated and inefficient.
There is a vast amount more knowledge to be known because the world is better understood. Our genome as been mapped. We can split atoms. We can travel in space. Children are likely to be interacting with people from a variety of cultures as mobility of people around the globe has increased. Often being proficient in multiple languages gives you an edge in any business market. Immersing in a language has time and again been shown to be the most effective method to learn. Children need to understand real life economics, not just counting and abstract algebra. How much does this product cost per ounce? So which is the better buy? Applied algebra is so much more meaningful than abstract ditto sheets. The exact same knowledge can be learned painlessly given the right situation.
Parents are now for the most part literate and capable of passing these skill on to their children. Once children are literate, a world of knowledge is at their fingertips!! With books and publications available in electronic format and downloadable in a matter of minutes from anywhere in the world with internet and world wide shipping available from most major retailers, the world is more accessible than ever before. And how have we adapted our education systems? We’ve added computers and iPads to enhance learning. These are called “interactive classrooms.” But is this really the best we can do?
How can we best prepare our children for “the real world?” Is sending them to a facility that’s got locked gates and controlled access so they can spend the majority of their day in a single concrete room with 20-30 other children their same age and a single adult telling them things, showing them pictures, and hey, wow, looking it up on an iPad, really the best we can do?? Is that the real world? Is it any representation of it? Do they encounter real life problems to solve? Do they get to pet a horse or comb its mane? Do they learn to purchase items with a budget or what healthy foods are? Do they learn where their food comes from other than via a lecture and maybe coloring a ditto sheet and watching a video (multimedia presentation)? And yet, this is the best we can do?
What if we prepared our children for the real world by showing it to them? By taking them with us, as adults, and showing them the ropes. Show them how to handle an uncomfortable situation. Show them how to interact with someone older than them with respect. And how to be more gentle with a baby or a toddler because their developmental level isn’t the same as our child’s. They may fall down easily and they don’t understand sharing yet. Our children can learn where their food comes from by a trip to the farm, watching it grow, seeing the many types of plants and animals, then trying to grow it at home. Do experiments, what if I add fertilizer here? What if there’s not enough water? Not enough sunlight? Simple experiments to do at home to make a clear point about plants needing food, water, and sunlight to grow. Take them to a local factory to see how products are made and packaged.
What if we took our children with us to the grocery store and gave them $10 to buy food, saying it had to be a balanced meal. Then see how they prioritize budget and food items. Then teach them, “Cheetos are not healthy, apples are, let’s take a look at the nutrients present in each.” Maybe make a checklist of all the vitamins and minerals in the RDA (Required Daily Allowance) and make it a treasure hunt to fill out the checklist in the grocery store. In the market when you get to make real decisions, the learning is tenfold what it would be in a classroom circling “which items are healthy” on a piece of paper. When children are in the moment of decision, this makes a prime teaching moment when you can interject meaningful information and they will retain it for a lifetime! THIS is engaged learning. And this is what World School is all about. Engaging the curiosity of the child and seizing that moment to make a poignant point that they will commit to memory and attach to the details of their encounter – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the textures, and maybe even the taste! They are learning with all of their senses and it is so much more meaningful.
Instead of trying to push rote memorization and repetition of key facts over and over, and the same facts to all the children of the same age across the nation during the same month each year, what if we were able to individualize the lessons? Allow each child enough stimulation and opportunity that they engaged their natural learning curiosity to the situation and began to ask questions rather than be spoonfed data points that mean nothing to them. Children would LOVE to learn, understand and create rather than dread another day of mental exercises and busy work.
Imagine how ready this little girl is to talk about everything llama!! Llama fur, llama habitat, llama foods, llama babies (crias) and so much more. Imagine if she has a chance to pet one of these creatures. Or even feed it! Then she’ll remember what they eat for sure! In one afternoon, she’ll know more about llamas than any kid who sits at a desk and uses books and the internet to write up a report. Yet she’ll reinforce that knowledge over the next week or two talking your ear off about, “the time the llama ______ ” and more than likely, “when are we going back to see the llamas?”
World School, learning through experiencing the world around you in a real and meaningful way, IS the educational system designed dynamically around the individual student and meeting the student’s needs. The child has a solid vertical support system with adult guidance, challenges to their comfort zone allowing personal growth, and access to the most current information and data to support their understanding of the experiences which they know to be real and genuine. What more could you want for your little learners than a stimulating, supportive, and vast educational experience in the real world to prepare them for the real world??