This recent article in Science is pretty interesting to me both as a parent and as an educator:
Scientific Thinking in Young Children: Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy Implications, Science 28 September 2012:
Vol. 337 no. 6102 pp. 1623-1627
Abstract: “New theoretical ideas and empirical research show that very young children’s learning and thinking are strikingly similar to much learning and thinking in science. Preschoolers test hypotheses against data and make causal inferences; they learn from statistics and informal experimentation, and from watching and listening to others. The mathematical framework of probabilistic models and Bayesian inference can describe this learning in precise ways. These discoveries have implications for early childhood education and policy. In particular, they suggest both that early childhood experience is extremely important and that the trend toward more structured and academic early childhood programs is misguided.”
I’d say the jist of the message is that we should let young kids play and explore more, and try to tell them how to do stuff less!! Of course, the idea that we can learn better on our own than we can from our teachers is not new. And this is not to say that teachers don’t have an important role at certain times. I’m just glad to see some mainstream science supporting what are supposedly “alternative schooling” ideas. As a cautious parent exploring unschooling with her family, it will help me sleep at night!