Children Educate Themselves III: The Wisdom of Hunter-Gatherers | Psychology Today

For hundreds of thousands of years, up until the time when agriculture was invented (a mere 10,000 years ago), we were all hunter-gatherers. Our human instincts, including all of the instinctive means by which we learn, came about in the context of that way of life. And so it is natural that in this series on children’s instinctive ways of educating themselves I should ask: How do hunter-gatherer children learn what they need to know to become effective adults within their culture

Read More: Children Educate Themselves III: The Wisdom of Hunter-Gatherers | Psychology Today.


One thought on “Children Educate Themselves III: The Wisdom of Hunter-Gatherers | Psychology Today

  1. I think this article is really interesting… I’m seriously in education-research mode right now, preparing to try to create a homeschool curriculum for my little one.

    In a lot of ways it seems like kids who have never been taught anything could function in our society — most of the things we “do” could be imitated by our children by giving them access to constant observation of our daily routines: shopping, gardening, cooking meals, caring for pets, doing laundry… perhaps using a computer, paying bills, and (maybe?) even driving, all without being taught how.

    The problem with our society in comparison with hunter/gatherers is that so much of what we do and know is internal knowledge — things you can’t “figure out” by watching or inferring or discovering. In particular, reading and writing. Is it possible to get by in our society as an adult without reading and writing? Yes, but it’s not possible to be a PRODUCTIVE member of our society without those skills… and they, unfortunately, must be taught. This article infers that hunter/gatherers had to learn “just as many” things as we do today, but I cannot see how that is true. When you get down to thinking about all the things we know, and need to know, on a daily basis — just to get by — we’re talking orders of magnitude above and beyond the skills they needed to survive.

    Once the ability to read and write on a basic level, I do believe there is room for a lot of self-instruction in the form of solo-reading and research, especially with the bounty that the internet provides, but I also think that a little guidance in terms of content is absolutely invaluable.

    That said, I wholeheartedly believe that the best way for kids to learn is through parental instruction, through play-oriented/play-disguised lessons and hands-on real-world experiences to amplify what they’re currently learning. The truth is, kids in any society are going to LOVE to learn. They WANT to learn. But without offering them access to all there is to know — in our complex, deep, and highly-competitive society — we would be doing them a great disservice!

    Just my $.02. I love this stuff.


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