Children are active, capable learners - they don't need us to teach them! Naomi Fisher writes on harnessing the power of self-directed learning

Yesterday I cycled to Brighton with my daughter. No big deal, you might think. It’s about three miles along a long straight cycle path. Except that a week beforehand, she couldn’t ride a bike at all. She had a bike, she has had several bikes, some with stabilisers and some without, but she couldn’t ride alone. I had to run along beside her, holding on, and rescuing her when she leant over too far or got scared.

I have spent a long time running alongside her bicycle. So has my mother, and her father. She didn’t feel ready to go it alone. Until last week, when she said she wanted to cycle to Brighton and was going to learn how. Out we went and she said she was scared. She said she felt the fear every time she started. Then she decided that this time was going to be different. She started singing ‘pedal pedal pedal’ and off she went. First five metres, then 10, then the whole length of the pavement. Until, just one week later, we were ready to go to Brighton. 

She was very pleased.

‘Can you believe?’ she said ‘That last week I couldn’t do this at all?’. I hardly could. I could see her demeanour change, awed at her own ability to learn and acquire skills. She seemed inches taller. 

And that’s what I want her to take from her education. The sense of herself as an active and capable learner. For when she has that, then the world is out there. No knowledge of fronted adverbials, or advanced calculus, or French irregular verbs can measure up to the knowledge that you, yourself can learn when you choose to do so.