Have you heard the terms “child led learning”, “natural ways of learning” but not actually see the actual fruits of such things in Singapore?
As an ex-teacher, I was used to a world where students’ best works exhibited were really the products of dedicated teachers and parents working around the clock. This was because we wanted an outcome that would be professional, or rather, up to a certain standard of showcase. Then we would tell everyone – students included – that this is “their work” when in reality, up to 50% was altered, edited or presented by someone else other than the students. In design intellectual property law, it’s yours if the original design was altered more than 50% or unrecognisable from the original. Although this is seldom the case in most schools, you can argue the change if you compare a student created work without adult intervention against the thing that has “help” stamped all over (metaphorically speaking).
When I became a homeschool mum, I desired that golden education where my children led their own inquiry. Research points to child led learning benefits in the short and long term like the child’s esteem, learning abilities and creativity. Child led learning is an entire flow for the preschool child all the way to tertiary.
The vision of the Children’s Craft Fair was to do this. To make it ideal, the parents would step aside and let the children make, buy and sell. No adult was allowed to intervene in the making of the item. If it required adult intervention, perhaps the item was too difficult to make, or required creative teaching. Children could focus on recyclables instead of buying expensive items to use to make. The goal was to facilitate a resource rich, enabling environment for child led learning.
In the first 2 editions (2015-2016), prices were capped at $2. The price cap facilitated an easier buy-in from parents who were unwilling to let their children splurge on items they deemed unnecessary. The early running of the Children’s Craft Fair was not easy – not in terms of getting organised into booths or liaising space with SAM (thank you for your kind support!). The difficulty was in trusting the children to create goods “of a standard”.
What it took to succeed was visible evidence. One, the parents organised craft fair co-ops leading to the event, with children making and selling to one another. When we saw how children valued one another’s items, and how much they liked a thing that we disliked, we realised our “standards” were not aligned to the customers’. Two, most of the children’s items sold out at the Craft Fair within the 2 hours. Since children were the main buyers, it was clear to us parents that we did not have to worry about our children not measuring up. We just needed to let them be.
This year marks our third edition. We celebrate the Children’s Craft Fair as a serious learning platform for child-led learning. The Craft Fair co-ops now look more or less like this : children at one corner teaching one another to make while the parents are somewhere else having a conversation over tea. We are more settled, and protective of the benefits of child-led learning because we have seen that it works. The children sellers are confident learners; they are encouraging to one another, and always seeking to improve with each edition. What’s more, the Children’s Craft Fair is run as a complete fundraiser : 100% of the proceeds go to charity. The charities we give to are those that benefit disadvantaged children.
I look forward to the day when more events like this pop up around Singapore, when children proudly declare “I did it” without an ounce of dishonesty in that statement. I know that would be a mark of quality education. Anyway, do join us at the Children’s Craft Fair 2017. Let your children buy, inquire and enjoy a unique experience among their peers. – Dawn Fung