When a child enters a traditional classroom, he finds the seat that he  has been assigned, and sits quietly. The teacher then lectures for majority of the class and, on occasion, has a worksheet to fill out. This type of teaching is called teacher-centered instruction. It is the way that they have been doing school for thousands of years with little to no changes.

Think about this;  when they were putting leeches on people to suck out diseases they were teaching this way. The medical field has radically changed over the last 1,000 years and yet educational methods have remained basically the same.

I would like to propose that we start to do school differently. Let’s make the student the center of his education. What if we allowed the student to choose what he studied? What if we let his passions for learning just run wild?

Well, that is what I did with my 3- year old son, Landen. About two weeks ago, I asked Landen if he would like to play chess and he said no. In our house my wife and I ask our children to do things.  We do not demand or command unless it is something necessary. He said no so I went on my day.

Later, I was playing chess on my phone when Landen became curious. He asked me to show him how to play. I first had him set up the pawns and then the king. Slowly I started adding more pieces. He learned their names and their locations. Then he said he was done. So he went back to playing on his kindle.

It wasn’t two hours later he wanted to know how the pieces moved. Within a couple of hours he was able to set up the board, know all the names of the pieces, and vaguely remembered how each piece moves. As the week has gone by he is becoming better and better at moving the pieces.

On the second day I downloaded a chess game onto his kindle so that he would  be able to play against the computer. The program is helpful because it gives him a visual on the ways each piece can move and whether or not his piece is in danger of being caught.

Can you imagine if I had put him in a class with 20 other children and had them take notes on each piece and its moves? Then, at the end of the week, handed them all a multiple choice test to assess their knowledge? I would literally be robbing them of their joy in learning.

For both my wife and I, teaching is a passion. We are both educators that have taught preschool to college age students.  Through all of my experiences I have found that a person only learns what he wants to learn. Yes, you can force a person to memorize facts for a test, but how many of us,  given that same test 3-weeks later would still pass? That is not real learning.

Real education comes from a genuine yearning from within an individual. Educators can nurture these desires, but they cannot make learning  happen. We cannot force a person to live a certain way. Many parents and teachers believe that they should force a child to do certain things. If the child does not want to participate, then he is punished. This type of conditioning will only insure that the child becomes blindly obedient to future authority figures. We should teach our children to do what is right, not what is commanded.

What about if the child or student needs to know about something? First, you should question whether the student really ‘needs’ to know what you want him to know. How many people live their lives without knowing this or these fact(s) and are just fine? Once your perspective has changed, your approach should too. You can invite the child to share in learning about this subject. Maybe expose him through showing him something exciting you can do with the knowledge.

For example, if you are wanting your child/student to be able to do calculus, math, science, etc, take him to a gaming or robotic convention to show him that he can do these things, but that to get to that point, he has to learn the subjects.

I am not suggesting to excite him at first and then bore him the rest of the year. If design is the goal, then have him use calculus or physics to design a project. This is called, project based learning. Students or children are learning traditional subject, but through building and working on projects. This creates for a deeper and enriched source of learning.

Learning chess at the age of three might not be ideal for your child if your child is not interested in doing something as analytical as chess. My son has been putting puzzles together since he was one. He currently puts together 50 piece puzzles all by himself. He likes to think things through and figure out the answers.

My daughter is not like this and I would never try to teach chess to her at that age. Instead, I think she might be interested in playing an instrument. But I will not know until I ask her. Remember, keeping your relationship with a child voluntary is important to  developing a lasting relationship with him.  This will help foster an educational environment that will surpass society’s exceptions for your child.