Did you make a mistake today? Or maybe I should rephrase that question and ask, how many mistakes did you make today? On any given day, I can safely say my slip-ups, goofs, and outright disasters are often too numerous to count. I can say this without (much) embarrassment - because I understand that every one of them has a direct line to a significant learning experience, and none of them come with ill intent attached.
I am, by nature, an exceedingly curious person - I always want to grasp the "hows," "whys," and "whats" of everything I encounter. And if that means experimenting and exploring the "ins" and "outs" to discover the answers - I will. This entire process is what I often refer to as playing, and it includes all of the mistakes, bumbles, and missteps that are bound to happen along the way.
This personal ideology is inextricably linked to the philosophy behind self-directed learning and my work at Deep Root Center - and is frequently counter to every formal educational experience the members of DRC have ever known.
I expect, no, nix that, I actively encourage every single person at DRC to experiment, explore, make mistakes, get messy, and have fun every time they think to themselves, "I wonder why, how, or what if ..."
However, they often come to us with the ingrained message that making a mistake means you failed and, subliminally, they are not good enough. This also means DRC kiddos will not jump into anything unfamiliar, won't investigate new ideas, and don't know how to play when they first arrive because they are deathly afraid of "screwing up," getting reprimanded, punished, and disappointing everyone around them.
I believe their innate curiosity, the very essence of their childhood, has been stolen from them. Without natural inquiry, there is no driving interest - and no thirst for knowledge or understanding.
I have said in the past that I always know when a kid (teen) is coming out of the deschooling process when they come to me and ask, "can I...?" Yet, I have never linked these two things in my mind before - their lack of curiosity obviously connects directly to the apathy, indifference, passivity, and exhaustion we usually associate with the deschooling process.
Several folks researching and writing about self-directed education have asked me, "how do you measure success in this environment?" My response is (and will always be) one word, "engagement!" Any curious kid, deeply immersed in exploration and experimentation, is by very definition happy and flourishing simply because they are learning something new.
The above photo is a perfect example of curiosity and playing in action. I gave each kid in the cooking class two eggs to make anything they wanted. K decided to cook a ham & cheese omelet. A was undecided - first, he looked in a cookbook and then asked, "can I make up something sweet?" This question led to a discussion about a basic cookie recipe followed by a thorough search of the kitchen to find other ingredients to add. He found marshmallows in the freezer and decided to invent cinnamon cookies with marshmallow bits. I have to admit, despite being very sticky, they were delicious!
The DRC Exploration Station Suite of Services is coming back later this summer and fall. Summer Programming begins on August 16th and will continue for three weeks. Afternoon Programming starts on September 7th. Space is limited. Register today.
Membership for the 21/22 academic year is open. Learn more about all of our programs on our website. And remember, your financial situation does not impact your child's ability to be at DRC.
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