Fab Fridays 5: Free To Learn

Learning reflections

Hey everyone!

Happy Friday. 

I spent the week at El Valle, a beautiful place in the outskirts of Panama where I had a chance to work close to nature, reflect upon my recent learnings, and engage in rich conversations with a dear friend that helped me clarify the mission and vision of my work. 

What follows is the best of what I read and learned this week. I hope you find useful. 

What I’m Reading

1) What’s Gone Wrong with Schooling? by Mason Hartman, an education researcher (among other things) whom I’ve had the pleasure to talk to a couple of times.

In this article, Mason offers her bold thoughts on how to rescue and transform childhood education. She makes a series of points that resonate with my views on what’s broken in the system. Here are some thought-provoking statements from her article:

  • Most schools are in the business of training human parrots through memorization, tests, and disconnected content. “The result is that some children learn to play the game (with varying degrees of self-awareness), and the rest are made to feel stupid — and to be deemed stupid by their peers. This is a self-perception that can persist for a lifetime.”

  • The system we’ve created is “labor-efficient childcare, not education.”

  • Learning is not and can never be something done to a person. The real substance of teaching is done by the learner himself.”

  • Real learning happens through a “curiosity-driven, outcome-directed process of investigation and experimentation.”

  • In order to rescue education, we must “rediscover play, and we must learn to trust the natural inclination of children to guide their own learning — as natural scientists.”

If you enjoy the article, I highly recommend you listen to her on this podcast with David Perell, titled Building a Creative Society.

2) Timeless Learning by Ira Socol, Pam Moran, and Chad Ratliff

“All children are curious and creative. They are naturally motivated to learn new things for genuine purposes. When they are not engaged in what we want them to learn, we need to question ourselves rather than blame them.”—Timeless Learning

I found myself nodding consistently while reading this book. It highlights the real ways kids learn, many of which have been forgotten or ignored, and the importance of keeping alive the natural curiosity and passion for learning with which children enter school. 

For anyone interested in learning about progressive education, this book offers profound insights on what schools can become if we truly put kids at the center of our work. 

3) Free To Learn by Peter Gray

“When we provide children with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges.”—Free To Learn

“The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.”—Free To Learn

In this book, Peter Gray breaks down what has happened to modern childhood and makes a compelling case for how traditional schools crush the desire to learn, and what we can do to revive imaginative learning.

This book will force you to consider how we have lost sight of the natural way to raise kids, and what we can do to fix this.

4) Lessons from a conversation with Tobias Van Schneider

This week I had the chance to connect with Tobias, a German award-winning designer that made it against all odds. I was moved by his story on becoming a designer and learned that we share similar goals despite our different backgrounds. Tobias is on a mission to help young people realize that there are ways to thrive doing what they love even if they fail in school. 

As with many children, the system failed him. He had a difficult childhood that ultimately led him to drop out of school, but this did not stop him. He taught himself design at the age of 16 and went on to found multiple businesses and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Like Tobias, there are countless children with unique talents that are simply not cut out for the traditional school system. Many, however, don’t find alternative ways to “make it.” This has to change. 

Some Reflections

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” — Kobe Bryant

I don’t want to school children. Kids have enough of that already. 

I want to assist children in their self-education journey so that they can succeed in whatever path they choose.

I want to inspire younger generations to learn on their own initiative. 

I want to craft a unique learning experience that gives children the chance to show us who they are and what they can do when there is no adult-imposed curriculum or testing.

My goal is to provide a virtual space where kids from all over the world come together to learn about the things that ignite their soul—a place where they can be free to obsess over their ideas and dig deeper into their curiosities with little restrictions. 

I want to create a space that will challenge kids’ curiosities, stimulate their inner desire to learn, and encourage them to pursue their healthy obsessions by giving them access to the tools, ideas, and people that can help them thrive.

I plan to start by using creative writing as a vehicle to get children excited about learning.

Until next week, 

Ms. Fab