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If there were no schools, only self-learning, what would your child study right now?

Has your child ever broken anything because he/she was very curious? Has he/she tried to dismantle a broken clock, radio, laptop or tablet just to see what it looks like on the inside? I remember when I was five years old, I cut open a pillow to see what was inside it. Can you imagine how my room looked covered in feathers? Fortunately, my parents were not upset about it. From the age of four, my son began collecting our old household devices in order to take them apart and explore their inner workings.

Scientists say this is normal behaviour as humans are natural-born explorers. There are many reasons why we explore. From birth, we learn about life and how it works by exploring. No brain can be satisfied for very long without exploring. Whether your child is talking to someone, looking around the room or breaking stuff to see what’s inside, he/she is exploring and learning.

Our brains are built to be curious about everything. We learn something new every day. That is the way we are. We like to understand things and how they work. Curiosity makes us explorers. This is a great thing because exploration looks forwards, not backwards. We don’t want to be stuck in the past; we want to move ahead. Exploration gives us the sense that anything is possible. It leads to knowledge and understanding. That means we are constantly learning and making the world a better place.

In Science Story 6 of the How People Learn book, we talk about this with children, and in the Try This section of that same chapter, I ask them this question:

If there were no schools and only self-learning, what would you study right now?

Don’t get me wrong; I totally support and help many schools. However, it is paramount for parents to remember that most of what we learn before, during, and after attending school is learned without it being taught to us. A child learns many fundamental things, such as how to connect with others, how to be empathetic, when to speak and when to listen, handling money, how to cook and handle household duties, how to establish and maintain good credit, manners, kindness, respect and so on, without being taught these things.

Schools are important. But it is much more important that your children love learning. How well do they understand that learning is not dependent on being in school? With the question above, you can start a meaningful conversation around why schools are important, why learning is important and the difference between them. What keeps them curious about the world? What motivates them to explore? What is their unique preference when it comes to contributing to the world around them?

Many parents and teachers joined us in this activity, and we would like to show you below some of the many messages we’ve received from children around the world. Join our conversation. There is also a video tutorial available for this on our How People Learn tutorials page.

Enjoy and send us your answers via our How People Learn Facebook page or Instagram account.

If there were no schools and only self-learning, what would you study right now?

Answers from children:

“To take care of animals. To understand them: what they prefer to eat, what they like, what they don’t like.” – Stefania, 6 years old
“Draw planes.” – Edy, 6 years old
“About Bermuda Triangle” -Mayra, 9 years old
“Mathematics and sciences, then to cook because I am hungry.” – Darius, 9 years old
“Sports and painting.” – Mara, 6 years old
“I want to learn how to draw a waterslide” – Georgiana, 6 years old
“I want to learn to write ‘I love you mom.’” – Livia, 6 years old
“I want to learn how to finish a puzzle with Pepa, as big as the house.” – Dragos, 6 years old
“To dance and to sing.” – 8 years old
“I would draw cars.” – Andi
“I would like to learn to do a lot of experiments.” – Anise
“I would like to know more about the animals that disappeared and to do the fun math through games.” – Serban, 5 years old
“I would like to learn how to make real houses and to drive a crane and work in a tire repair shop.” – Alex, 9 years old
“Mathematics.” – Yves Stefan, 7 years old
“Musical theory. Instrument. But no voice.” – Eva Francesca, 12 years old
“Nothing.” – Maria, 15 years old
“I refuse to answer this question.” – Anastasia, 16 years old
“Architecture, I would like to learn how to make houses and decorate them.” – Theodora, 12 years old
“I would learn about nature, the environment, animals.” – Rebeca, 11 years old
“Mathematics and history.” – Raisa, 10 years old
“Mathematics, about my country, history.” – Bianca, 9 years old
“Mathematics and gymnastics.” – Iarina, 9 years old
“How to paint” – Ana Sophia, 12 years old
“How to play. How to fly.” Teodora, 11 years old
“If there were no schools, I would go to learning communities where adults just facilitate. I would learn online. I would learn about online safety and safety in the world and first aid. I would help younger children learn in communities. I would learn about scientists. I would design real products.” – Vlad, 12 years old
“Hairstyle and makeup.” – Nicole, 8 years old
“Computer science and programming.” – Robert, 12 years old
“About how the universe was created.” – Vlad, 10 years old
“About applications that make our lives easier.” Denis, 9 years old
“If there were no schools, I would learn to paint. I like it the most! ❤” – Patricia, 10 years old

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