How Do Children Learn, and How Best to Teach Them? by Joseph Barone

I haven’t yet been blessed with children of my own, but as you may have read, I want to ready the world for their arrival.  They’ll already have stories and poems to listen to as they get ready to drift off to sleep.  Recently, I got to thinking about what the best philosophy might be on how to approach a child’s mind- what are the right techniques to expand it?  Or, maybe there’s no real “right” techniques, but a set of “best” ones.

If you’re an avid news eagle, you know that the healthy habit you had last month has been deemed a poor choice this month.  Then further research might bear it out as a good choice again.  Only to have follow-up experiments disprove that once more.  And so on and so on.  In the end, a list of good attributes must replace a rigid set of rules as a proper guide.  The best way children learn, and therefore the best way to teach them, is through imagination and creativity.

I think of the most creative person I know of- Albert Einstein.  You might be thinking- creative?  Not the first adjective that comes to mind when considering the greatest genius of the 20th century.  But if you’re a physics buff, or a history buff, or are familiar at all with what Einstein accomplished and discovered, you know that his thoughts were way out of the box.  He’d figured out some of the deepest truths about the reality of our universe through his use of “thought experiments”.  His theories of relativity answered almost a child-like question: “what would I see if I could ride on a beam of light?”

Creativity is a pivotal force in math and science, as well as traditionally creative subjects like English and Music.  Acquainting children as early as possible to imaginative thinking, breaks the boundaries set by the realities they know.  In my opinion, it leads to constant growth and a cycle of bunker-busting throughout a lifetime.

Children like games, but what are games?  They have a set of rules to be learned, and allow kids to employ strategies they can try out.  Some of the best children’s stories can be some of the most far-fetched, stretching what they know and asking them to consider something else.

My advice, if I’m in any position to offer some, is to keep that in mind when teaching children anything.  Keep them wondering.  Maybe someday they can figure out what would happen if they rode on a beam of light.  And who knows?  Maybe someday they’ll actually ride one.

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