Robert Maynard Hutchins said, “The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” How do we prepare our children and students to accept responsibility for their own education? Are we educating our children, or are we helping them to educate themselves?
Of course, young children and students in Love of Learning Phase need a parent or teacher to create a rich environment for them. They are not ready to own their education completely. You wouldn't expect your 10-year-old to buy a car, but you might expect him to save up to buy that new bike he wants. Even at a young age, our children and students can owns their education in small pieces. As you make each decision, ask yourself whether your child truly needs your mature intercession to save her from a bad choice that may have repercussions later into her life, or are you micromanaging her education to be the best YOU think it should be for her.
When we allow our students to own their education, we still guide them. We have walked the path before them, and so we hope to shed a little light upon their path. We are happy when they are able to add knowledge and skills to their intellectual bank account. But we are not devastated if they make bad choices and have set backs, because our own self-worth is not integrally connected to their success or failure. They have the freedom to fail and learn from those failures, because we do not react as if failure is intellectual bankruptcy. Sophocles taught, “It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” But this is how we learn and grow.
How can you really tell if you are owning your child's education? If we feel ownership of a student’s education, we feel personally threatened by his failure. One way to know if we are allowing our students to own their education is to observe how strongly (negatively) we react to their failures.
Have you ever noticed that children treat toys bought with their own money with greater care than those simply given to them? When our students own their education, they take care to maintain it properly. They take great pride in their academic accomplishments. They enjoy not only learning new skills and knowledge but also reinforcing the skills and knowledge they already possess.
Booker T. Washington stated, “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” Give your children appropriate amounts of responsibility, allow them to experience the natural results of their choices, rejoice with them when they succeed, and encourage them when they fail. In the end, you will both live happy and fulfilling lives.