A grandmother regarding her grandson’s learning experience in SelfDesign, comments:

“I do worry – he seems so happy now – how can he be learning?”

What a profound statement about our culturally-held expectations for education! Do we really associate learning with being unhappy, bored, disaffected, and disenfranchised as this boy had been in public school? If a child is engaged and excited about things, does that mean he must be playing, and that if it looks like play or passion it can’t mean learning, especially as children move up in age? When exactly do the curiosity-filled explorations of the child become questionable or even unacceptable as representations of learning and do we begin to see learning as ‘work’ that is by definition the opposite of play, or even of happiness?


When we take the time to remember that as adults we are still learners in this lifelong journey, we can perhaps take an additional few moments to visualize the times we drop deeply into a book or movie that fascinates us and broadens our world. We can notice the rich conversations with others who have similar interests or others who hold significantly different views and how those talks can grow us immeasurably. We can feel in our very bodies the timeless moments that creativity carries us to a magical place of being totally present and connected with everything. This is our learning as adults, not very different from the young child’s learning other than perhaps in the specific form … and the emotion and engagement is as powerful at 40 as it is at 4. I want that for our k-12 learners as well.


SelfDesign is built on the belief that engaged, relational learning coming from an “I can” rather than an “I should” place is what we want our young people to be experiencing. It doesn’t mean that everything is easy or that struggles to find meaning along the way don’t occur… in fact, we encourage opportunities for those very exposures. This thing we call life is rich, complex, contradictory sometimes. It’s not for the faint of heart, I suppose, and yet its very challenge is what hopefully evolves us into adults who are passionately engaged in enriching our world. Can we give value to our own happiness as lifelong learners? Can we give the same valuing when it comes to those who are in the age range between young child and us as adults? I hope so.


Written by River Meyer, SelfDesign Learning Foundation and co-author of SelfDesign: Unfolding Our Infinite Wisdom Within