#911: The Self-Taught Child

I can’t stop thinking about this tremendous TEDTalk video, about the child-driven education. It demonstrates how wonderfully self-motivated and capable an eager, curious child can be. The experiments and research conducted by Mr. Mitra are remarkable, and should make every educator and parent take notice. While we’re quite far from duplicating here at home what Mr. Mitra observed, we’ve noticed the capacity that a child has for self-teaching.

When we renovated the kitchen earlier this year, we installed a little computer nook so that we could now have a laptop and a desktop in the same room for the two kids. With their backs to each other, they could each go on their own computers and do what they wanted to do, sometimes guides, sometimes unguided.

The Boy obviously does not have the cognitive and typing skills that his sister has, but he’s managed to scrape himself past the stages of simple-word-typing and video games. Told that there were a certain number of “safe” web sites that he could navigate on his own, he soon found a world of educational pages that satisfied his interests. He demonstrated how much he had learned and remembered, one day while we were watching a movie.

We were watching Jurassic Park III for probably about the eighth time. Each time we watch it, it seems that the kids notice or learn something new that they hadn’t the previous time. On this occasion, the Boy watched a particular scene, and then jumped up, asking us to pause the video.

“I need to go check my Dinosaur Train [from the pbskids.org web site], to see what the name of that dinosaur is. I’m sure I’ve seen it there!” And off he went.

What does this reiterate? That given the opportunities, and the desire, a child can indeed teach himself the things that are most important to him. Maybe even one day, he can teach himself the things that are important to us too, like biotechnology.