What prevents people from self-education

Children's self-education processes

Every child brings potential into the world from birth. These potentials are inherent in himself and describe the ability to form oneself in one's own doing and acting or in sensual interaction with materials or one's own body. Therefore, children demand a stimulating environment that responds to their intrinsic motivation and desire to learn. Because every child is based on a learning genius, it is up to us to look carefully so as not to overlook the flood of unique educational processes. “In particular, this self-active process, which cannot be calculated by adults, is what is meant by the term“ self-education ”that is often used in specialist literature. However, self-education does not mean that education and learning take place in a shielded area. Educating children are always dependent on other children, other adults and a stimulating environment with which they can exchange ideas, i.e. with whose help they can educate themselves. The concept of self-education also describes the image of an active, interpreting and creative child ”(Leu 2012).

Education is always directly dependent on the environment that surrounds the (self) learner. “Self-education therefore takes place within the framework of the possibilities that are brought to the child from outside” (Schäfer 2011). Self-education processes are of elementary importance for child development; they are to a certain extent a chronicler and author of early childhood educational biographies. “In this sense, early childhood education is first and foremost self-education and is gained through the events that children experience in their life contexts. [...] Therefore, self-education is only conceivable as self-education within social relationships ”(Schäfer 2011).

Prepared environment as the key to self-education

When Loris Malaguzzi spoke of the “room as a third educator”, he made it clear how necessary a stimulating and prepared environment is for children's educational processes. Children need play and learning spaces, they must be able to deal with their environment, be able to question laws, be able to try out their surroundings and materials, as well as make hypotheses, interpret phenomena, discard conclusions and construct their very own world.

Children need an environment that challenges them, shows them their limits, lets them go new ways and yet remains familiar in order to give them the security they need to explore. The child is not given any prefabricated knowledge or a certain play material given, not the educator, but the child selects what it feels is important and to whom or what it gives its full concentration and full attention. The child is free to choose his occupation and to indulge himself in his activity according to his own spatial and temporal senses.

What does neurobiology know about self-education processes and how do we deal with them?

“Neurobiological research shows that people are born with a“ learning instinct ”. The brain is naturally designed to seek stimulation and variety, to give things meaning and thereby to create explanations. In particular, the process of linking the familiar with the new explains why trying things out, puzzling, discovering and explaining yourself stick in the mind so much more easily. In the meantime, therefore, brain research also demands not to disturb small children in their educational and learning processes, to allow mistakes and to hold back with already finished explanations ”(Leu 2012). We have to stop thinking that we know what matters to children and what they absolutely need to learn in order to survive in tomorrow's society. Occasionally we still make the well-intentioned but completely inappropriate attempt to offer the children pedagogically prepared educational offers as a contrast to their apparently trivial, constantly repetitive game. Almost as if we feared their supposedly cognitive undersupply due to too much play and self-chosen activities and can just avert them if we quote them all in the chair because we consider it an important instrument for promoting preschool skills.

But early childhood educational processes are not a waste calendar that can be meticulously planned 1 year in advance, taking into account all accompanying circumstances. On the contrary: self-education is a highly complex and exciting process that takes place in all phases of child development. It always happens in the now, what matters is the moment. This moment in which the child gives himself completely to his activity and draws endless possibilities of experience from it, which he stores in the brain as an irrevocable learning experience. “Learning consists not only of what the child does not yet know, but also of previous experiences that it brings with it as a context in order to decipher and classify new experiences. In order to be able to offer meaningful educational opportunities, you have to know something about this individual context that children bring with them, and not just understand something about the content. The essential question in learning processes is then not how one can teach or explain something to the child, but what context of knowledge and experience it needs so that it can understand the meaning of what is being told or taught to it "(Schäfer 2011) . It is up to us to accompany the children with their inexhaustible potential and their unleashed curiosity on their individual path. We also have a duty to create an environment that invites children and encourages them to deal with it with all their senses. "Children who are allowed to learn successfully and with pleasure, see themselves as competent and are happy and open-minded towards new educational and learning opportunities" (Leu 2012).

The role of the educator as a developer of potential

The specialist primarily assumes the role of companion and observer. Your task is to accompany and document self-education processes as well as to record in writing and pictures what the current topics of the children are. She looks at each child individually with regard to their individuality. “Adults and more advanced children have the role of being an experienced and competent partner for the child who supports, challenges and takes them further. The way in which adults and children interact is crucial. What is meant is not imparting knowledge, norms and values ​​to passively receiving children, but rather a balanced activity between adults and children in which both parties consider how a goal can be pursued or a task can be mastered ”(Leu 2012).

The specialist is in the narrower sense a potential developer who helps the child to fully exploit the self-education potential given at birth. According to Wilhelm von Humboldt, it does not fill the child with anything, but rather helps to light a flame in him. It therefore has a key role in the pedagogical interaction with the child. Although it makes itself “superfluous” in certain situations, it remains constantly available to the child. She has to manage the balancing act between recognizing the situation, initiating the logical impulse and persevering, enduring and allowing the child his or her time.


“The aim of the educational work in the day-care center must also be to provide the children with opportunities to make the most of their self-education potential in as many ways as possible and to experience their productive processing possibilities through the interaction of forces. This succeeds where children are supported, encouraged and challenged in situations that are [of great importance] for themselves ”(Schäfer 2011). After all, children can ultimately only educate themselves, since education cannot be conveyed, but only made comprehensible.